Potato growers in North Carolina will have improved access to Canadian markets next year, thanks to a bilateral trade agreement signed recently by the United States and Canada.

Growers will have a limited amount of guaranteed access to Canadian markets under the new agreement, where they gambled in past years that Canadian growers would produce less than a full crop and need U.S. potatoes to meet demand.

“We’ve been pushing for this agreement and want to thank the National Potato Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative for working with us to gain increased access to this important market,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The new agreement will modify Canada’s system of ministerial exemptions so that North Carolina growers can fulfill their contracts and maintain access to this important export market. Canada is our largest export market for white potatoes, with our potatoes going into the chip market as well as fresh sales.”

Troxler traveled to Canada in 2005 and met with Canadian officials negotiating the agreement. He pointed out the track record of North Carolina growers providing high-quality fresh potatoes to Canada and how, in 2004, growers were able to ship only 117 loads of potatoes when they expected to ship 1,000 loads. Each load of potatoes is worth about $2,500, bringing the revenue shortfall to more than $2 million for that marketing year.

North Carolina potato growers harvest most of their spuds during June and market them as fresh stock, versus storing them for later sale. About 70 percent of the potatoes go to the potato chip plants, with the remainder sold as table stock. Growers here raise round white, red, Yukon gold and yellow flesh potatoes, mostly in the northeastern counties of the state.