U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, during a Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping, urged that China change its rules to allow import of Washington-grown pears.
Turns out that China does not allow the import of any U.S. pears. Who knew? Here’s the press release from Cantwell’s office, with perhaps-helpful links inserted by me:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping in Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged China to further open its market to American pears. Washington state produces more pears than any other state in the nation, with a total crop value of $189 million in 2010. (Above link provides Washington Post account of Xi’s DC visit–JS)
Xi, who is likely to be the next leader of China, met with U.S. Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill today. Cantwell encouraged him to move forward on a deal that would enable Washington pears to be sold in China.
China currently does not allow imports of American pears but the United States allows imports of Chinese Ya and fragrant pears. The two countries have had discussions about opening the pear market for nearly two decades to allow the import of fresh sand pears from China and the export of U.S. pears to China. However, since last November, talks between the two countries to open the pear market have gained momentum, and it would be a benefit to Washington pear producers to have the market open by this pear season. Chinese and American officials are still discussing the details of mitigation measures for pests and disease.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Washington state’s economy, supporting 160,000 jobs and contributing 12 percent to the state’s economy,” said Cantwell. “Opening the Chinese market to American pears would support Washington producers and bolster our thriving export economy. I’m hopeful that Vice President Xi will work with American officials to ensure market access for American pears.”
Opening up the Chinese market to American pears would not only help Washington farmers, it would also provide more business for the state’s ports and cargo transporters. Washington’s ports and waterways are the closest to Asia and Alaska of all U.S. ports. Nearly $13 billion in food and agricultural products were exported through Washington ports in 2010, the third largest total in the United States.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a bill that he says would make it easier for U.S. farmers to bring immigrant workers into the country on temporary visas.
Among other things, his bill would transfer the agricultural labor permitting system to the Agriculture Department, away from the Labor Department.
According to this report from McClatchy, the bill would cover dairies as well as other farms, which apparently has not been the case under previous temporary worker plans. But some in agriculture say Smith’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.
On Aug. 29, 2011, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, was in Whatcom County meeting with local farmers. Afterwards, Larsen said he would oppose legislation that would force farmers to use E-Verify, a computerized federal system that checks validity of a worker’s identity documents, unless a way could be found to enable farmer to get access to legal labor to harvest their crops.