Foreign Trade Relationships at Risk
I'm Lacy Gray with Washington Ag Today.
We've been talking with Matt Harris, Director of Government Affairs with the Washington Potato Commission, about the impact being felt by producers and rural communities around the state as labor contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union continues to drag on - creating congestion at Northwest ports that's leaving containers full of perishable crops from around the Pacific Northwest just sitting and waiting for shipment. Losses from the delayed delivery of potatoes and other produce to foreign buyers extends beyond the financial; Harris says such delays could cause Washington growers and suppliers to lose credibility with importers in foreign markets.
HARRIS: It's the relationship that you have with a customer in Asia or Latin America. Washington and the United States - we're not the only potato producing region in the world; we face stiff competition with Canada, with China, with Europe, with Australia/New Zealand and specific markets. And if we can't deliver a wholesome safe food in a timely fashion, then we jeopardize that relationship; and that's not a short term fix. That takes a long, long time to rebuild confidence.
Ag groups have sent a letter to the Obama Administration asking for a federal mediator to intervene in the labor negotiations.
HARRIS: It's very concerning to us that as a nation can't move forward in this process and use the tools that the federal government has had established in past practices with other labor negotiations. Our office has not heard back on what the President could be doing. Any report has been " the White House is monitoring the situation".
That's Washington Ag Today.
I'm Lacy Gray with the Ag Information Network of the West.