Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers to U.S. Trade Rep, USDA: Ensure Equal Access to Markets for Blueberry Farmers
Washington, D.C., May 9, 2023
A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) and David Valadao (R-CA-22) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with their Japanese counterparts to ensure equal market access for U.S. farmers by eliminating Japan’s damaging frozen blueberry tariffs.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) and David Valadao (R-CA-22) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with their Japanese counterparts to ensure equal market access for U.S. farmers by eliminating Japan’s damaging frozen blueberry tariffs.
“We urge you to pursue a technical amendment to the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement to ensure U.S. frozen blueberries receive the same duty-free market access in Japan as fresh or dried blueberries, as well as other frozen berries,” the lawmakers wrote. “Doing so will allow U.S. farmers to compete on level terms with other blueberry exporting countries and would help save and revitalize market opportunities for U.S. berry farmers.”
To read the lawmakers’ full letter to USTR Tai and the USDA, click here.
What Blueberry Farmers and Producers Are Saying
“Sakuma Brothers Farms and Processing was one of the first blueberry processors to specialize and sell frozen blueberries to the Japanese market. The U.S. tariff on frozen blueberries has created an unfair competitive advantage for Canadian and other foreign blueberry processors or the past 4 years, causing significant and irreparable harm. We appreciate the efforts on the part of Rep. Rick Larsen in attempting to correct the oversight in the U.S.-Japan Phase One trade deal. It is our hope that this tariff will be eliminated before the upcoming blueberry harvest to help U.S. farmers rebuild their export business with Japan.” – Sakuma Brothers Farms and Processing, Burlington, WA
“We're grateful to Congressman Valadao for his support of the blueberry industry in working to address trade barriers and enhance the competitiveness of blueberries in foreign markets.” - David Munger, Munger Farms, Delano, CA
“Maine produces nearly 100% of US produced wild blueberries. Ninety-eight percent of those are fresh frozen, locking in freshness to create the best frozen blueberry money can buy, frozen wild blueberries. Our industry welcomes the possibility of selling our premium frozen fruit to the discerning Japanese consumer and we thank Senators King, Collins, Congresswoman Pingree, and others for their efforts to remove this unnecessary barrier to US exports of frozen blueberries.” – Eric Venturini, Executive Director, Maine Wild Blueberry Commission
The 2019 U.S.-Japan Phase One trade deal failed to fully account for a key bilateral trade flow. While the deal eliminated tariffs on fresh and dried blueberries, U.S. frozen blueberries continue to face 6.0 percent or 9.6 percent tariff rates in Japan, depending on sugar content. Japan lifted tariffs on frozen blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, leaving frozen blueberries as an outlier in terms of market access. The U.S. share of the Japanese frozen blueberry import market has declined year-over-year following the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) from 21 percent in 2018 to 15 percent in 2022.
Joining Larsen, Valadao and King in signing the letter were Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Reps. Rick Allen (R-GA-12), Jack Bergman (R-MI-01), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-05), Jim Costa (D-CA-21), Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), John Duarte (R-CA-13), Jared Golden (D-ME-02), Val Hoyle (D-OR-04), Bill Huizenga (R-MI-04), Kevin Kiley (R-CA-03), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), John Moolenaar (R-MI-02), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-03), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01), Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06), Hillary Scholten (D-MI-03), Kim Schrier (D-WA-08), Austin Scott (R-GA-08), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ-02) and Rudy Yakym (R-IN-02).