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Cantwell, Risch, and Colleagues Call on Biden to Help Finally Open Japanese Market to $100B U.S. Potato Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Jim Risch (R-ID), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, were joined by 8 colleagues, including leaders of the Senate Committees on Appropriations, Finance, and Agriculture in sending a letter to President Biden requesting that he capitalize on Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the U.S. Capitol and ask the Prime Minister to open the Japanese markets to U.S fresh potatoes.

We believe the Prime Minister of Japan’s visit to the United States poses an opportunity to address this longstanding issue and make progress in finally allowing U.S. grown fresh potatoes to be exported to Japan,” the senators wrote. “U.S. producers continue to face significant obstacles in gaining access to the market in Japan […] Despite the efforts of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Fisheries (MAFF) continues to delay substantive negotiations on table stock access.”

“There is no valid phytosanitary justification for these delays, as the U.S. potato industry has a strong history of exporting fresh potatoes to many markets, including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand,” the letter continues. “We strongly urge you to raise this issue with Prime Minister Kishida during his visit to the United States.”

The U.S. potato industry is worth more than $100 billion. Around 20% of U.S.-grown potatoes are exported, contributing nearly $4.8 billion to the domestic economy, and supporting nearly 34,000 jobs. Industry leaders estimate that opening the Japanese market would result in an additional $150 million per year in exports.

Here in Washington state, our growers account for 20% of all U.S. potato production, and the industry supports 31,613 jobs. Altogether, Washington state’s food processing and agriculture industries create more than 164,000 jobs. A county-by-county breakdown is available HERE.

Sens. Cantwell and Risch have a long history of supporting the U.S. potato industry. In May 2023, Sens. Cantwell and Risch sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to help potato growers get approval to sell fresh potatoes to customers in Japan. Sens. Cantwell and Risch also led fellow Senators in support of successful negotiations to permit fresh potato exports to China in 2020.

Sens. Cantwell and Risch were joined by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, John Hoeven (R-ND), Angus King (I-ME), and John Hickenlooper (D-CO).

The full text of the letter is HERE.

***National Potato Council leadership issued the following statements in support of the Senators’ efforts:

“For nearly three decades, Japan has refused to move forward on the U.S. market access request to allow the importation of U.S. fresh potatoes,” said National Potato Council Vice President of Trade Affairs and Washington state potato grower Ted Tschirky. “Breaking past the stalling tactics and finally gaining market access for U.S. fresh potatoes will generate additional economic activity and support workers throughout the entire U.S. potato supply chain.”

“While Prime Minister Kishida is in D.C., we appreciate the efforts of our allies in Congress to counter the political opposition we are seeing in Japan,” said Dean Gibson, National Potato Council Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Idaho potato grower. “Securing fresh potato access will help to reduce the U.S. agricultural trade deficit, benefitting American growers and Japanese consumers alike.”

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