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A P R I L 2 0 1 68 POTATO GROWER Potato Growers Visit Capitol Hill On February 22-25 the National Potato Council NPC hosted the 2016 Potato D.C. Fly-In where more than 130 U.S. potato growers and industry partners from across the country came to Washington D.C. to advocate for the industrys most pressing federal policy priori- ties. Growers blanketed Capitol Hill and met with federal regulators at USDA and EPA. During their visits growers urged Congress and agency officials to address key industry issues including the Potato Research Special Grant Trans- Pacific Partnership TPP Voluntary GMO Labeling Pollinator Health and the waters of the U.S WOTUS rule. The energy and enthusiasm that growers showed when address- ing key issues in the potato industry was apparent and the residual effect will be positive for the grower com- munity. Potato Special Research Grant Funding For more than 25 years NPC has worked with Congress to secure these grants that support competitive potato breeding proj- ects across the country. Last year the potato industry received 2 mil- lion in funding which was roughly a 30 percent increase over FY2015 funding. Growers reported that their lawmakers were receptive and eager to continue the funding at the 2 million level for FY2017. TPP The Obama administration is seeking approval from Congress for TPP which is an Asia-Pacific region- al free trade agreement with 11 other countries. The agreement will give the potato industry the ability to be more competitive by eliminat- ing tariffs in key markets where U.S. exports are valued at 1.05 billion. Although there are some doubts that this bill will be voted on by the end of the 114th Congress NPC believes that the personal interac- tion between growers and lawmak- ers increased the chances of it hap- pening. Growers conveying the pos- itive impact this measure will have on the potato industry is a strong motivator for members of Congress. Voluntary GMO Labeling Fly-In attendees did an effective job of communicating their concerns over the negative effects of state mandat- ed food labeling regulations. Growers told their elected represen- tatives that genetically modified foods are equally safe for consumers and the environment as conven- tionally bred food and that a patch- work of state laws will cost American families hundreds of dol- lars for groceries each year. NPC believes that this message was heard loud and clear and will encourage Republicans and Democrats to work out a compromise that will establish federal preemption for food label- NPCMessage by John Keeling NPC Executive Vice President and CEO