Vilsack Talks Labor, Biotechnology, and CRP During Mexican Trip

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made a recent trip to Mexico to talk about shared priorities between the two trading partners. He talked with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, Victor Villalobos on priorities like open trade, science-based policymaking, and climate-smart agriculture. Vilsack says the meetings yielded good news for potato growers.

“After 15 years of struggle to trade in potatoes, we now have the secretary and the president acknowledging that we are prepared, on or before May 15, to have full access for fresh potatoes to the entire Mexican market. There’s a site visit that will take place before that by Mexican officials to a site in California. After that, there will be no more requests for additional site visits. We expect that we’ll see some expediting of registrations for entities that will qualify as importers for both table stock potatoes and processing potatoes.”

He talked to Mexican President Lopez-Obrador about labor and biotechnology.

“We discussed the importance of labor, recognizing the need for U.S. labor and, certainly, in the agricultural area, and the need for Congress to act to pass the Ag Workforce Modernization Act. I had a conversation with the President as well on biotechnology. I wanted to make sure that he understood that many different crops are impacted and affected by this science that can be of help to Mexico. We can work collaboratively with the Mexicans and the Mexican department of agriculture and other agencies of the Mexican government to try to get many of the technology traits that are currently awaiting approval, to try to get them through the process.”

During Q and A with reporters, Vilsack responded to questions about the USDA decision to not open up CRP acres for planting this year. He says farmers will decide whether or not to plant more acres of crops.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 to 56 percent of the acres, about 1.8 million acres, re-upped. We got a few new contracts, but nowhere near the number of acres that contracts that did not re-up. That’s part of the issue here. I mean, it’s just amazing to me that people don’t understand that the market responds to signals, and farmers make the decision. They make the best decision they can for their own operation, and I tried to convey that to folks, that farmers are going to make the decision.”

USDA data shows that 3.9 million acres will expire from CRP at the end of September. Vilsack says that shows the government doesn’t need to mandate when and where farmers plant.

“You don’t need to force farmers to take land out of CRP. This is really remarkable that folks are asking us to force farmers to do something that farmers have the capacity to do themselves, and we and USDA trust the farmers to make the right decision for themselves.”

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