WASHINGTON, D.C. - Fourth District Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) led a bipartisan coalition of Washington and Oregon lawmakers in asking USDA Secretary Ann Veneman to make a bonus purchase of canned Bartlett pears for the nation's federal nutrition programs.
Hastings told Veneman that American pear growers have suffered in recent years because of duty-free access of South African canned pears and increased imports of pears from China.
"I understand the impact these imports have on Central Washington pear producers," said Hastings. He added that along with requesting USDA pear purchases he will continue to do all he can to see more fair trade agreements are developed.
South African canned pears were granted duty-free access into the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was signed into law in 2000. Prior to the passage of the act, South African canned pears were subject to a 15.3 percent tariff. Hastings said the elimination of the tariff, together with the fact that South Africa is a competitive pear exporter, has undermined efforts by American pear growers to remain competitive in the world marketplace.
Joining Hastings in asking the USDA to make a bonus purchase of canned Bartlett pears grown in the U.S. were Congressman George Nethercutt (R-Wa.), Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn (R-Wa.), and Oregon Congressmen Rick Larsen and Peter DeFazio.