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Domestic potato growers face significant obstacles in gaining access to Japanese markets

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter to President Biden requesting 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. “… There is no valid phytosanitary justification [(concern regarding plant health)] 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. 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.

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

Sens. Risch and Cantwell were joined by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.).

The full text of the letter is here.