Maine Senators Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) have co-sponsored legislation aimed at boosting export opportunities for the state’s blueberry and potato farmers.
The Specialty Crops Reporting on Opportunities and Promotion Act (Specialty CROP Act) is designed to identify and address trade barriers that exist in foreign markets for American farmers.
Under this legislation, the annual U.S. Specialty Crops Trade Issues Report would be required to include a publicly available analysis of any “acts, policies, or practices of foreign countries that constitute significant barriers to, or distortions of United States exports of specialty crops.”
Also included in the report would be a description of “any action taken by the executive branch…to eliminate any act, policy, or practice” identified earlier in the report.
Both Sen. Collins and Sen. King offered statements on the bill in a joint press release published earlier this week.
“Maine is known throughout the country for its potatoes and wild blueberries,” Collins said in the press release. “By increasing reporting requirements for agricultural trade, this bipartisan bill would provide U.S. farmers with greater assurance that they are competing in a fair global market, and that their high-quality products have every opportunity to continue to reach consumers worldwide.”
“The agriculture community is at the heart of Maine’s identity and is essential to our state’s economy,” King said. “The [Specialty CROP Act] is a great step forward to ensure that Maine farmers can compete on even terms with farmers from other countries – helping to save and revitalize our small businesses here at home.”
“As the agricultural industry faces challenges resulting from changing global markets, we must level the playing field by providing needed resources and support to our American businesses,” King stated.
One of the things that Maine is most famous for is its blueberries. Farmers in the state are responsible for growing roughly ten percent of all the blueberries in the United States and nearly one hundred percent of low-bush blueberries. 485 farms grow more than 39,000 acres worth of blueberries across Maine, primarily within Washington and other coastal counties.
Maine is also one of the top-ten states for potato production. Responsible for roughly $540 million worth of sales each year, as well as about $32 million in state and local taxes, potato farming has a notable impact on Maine’s economic health.
Earlier this year, King introduced the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act alongside Collins and a handful of other lawmakers.
Similar to the Specialty CROP Act, the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act was intended to help boost exports of American agricultural products, including seafood.
By doubling funding for programs advertising American goods overseas, it was estimated that the legislation would result in an additional $7.4 billion in agricultural exports.
In January the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act was referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. No action has been taken on the legislation since.
It remains to be seen how far the Specialty CROP Act will make it in the legislative process over the course of the coming weeks and months.
Alongside King and Collins, the Specialty CROP Act was also co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Companion legislation in the House of Representatives is expected to be introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).