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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –Standing up for Northwest pear farmers, Senator Patty Murray and six colleagues have called on President Bush to revoke the special, duty-free benefits granted to South African pears.

In a letter to President Bush sent Monday, Murray cited the substantial losses suffered by processors and farmers of Northwest Bartlett pears because of cheap canned pears imported from South Africa.

"U.S. growers and processors are already suffering from low prices. While I support the spirit and direction of the African trade act, our farmers are rightly concerned about helping out what is already a very competitive foreign industry," said Murray.

Murray and her colleagues urged the President to withdraw Generalized System of Preference duty-free benefits for canned pears from South Africa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Over the last three years, the U.S. canned pear industry has suffered substantial economic hardship. Processor losses exceeded $24 million and Northwest Bartlett pear growers lost $15.2 million during the period.

A copy of the letter follows

July 1, 2002

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

We are writing to urge you to withdraw Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) duty-free benefits for canned pears from South Africa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The U.S. canned pear industry has petitioned the administration to remove the duty-free status for canned pears under AGOA. We understand the domestic industry submitted its final comments on this issue on May 22, 2002, and that a final decision on the petition is imminent. Without action to remove duty-free benefits for South African canned pears, farmers and processors will face an increasingly desperate situation and pressure will grow on the federal government to respond.

The U.S. canned pear industry (1,600 Bartlett pear growers, 11,000 farm and cannery workers, and seven canned pear processors) is suffering substantial economic hardship. Processor losses exceeded $24 million the last three crop years and Pacific Northwest Bartlett pear growers lost $15.2 million during the same period. California Bartlett pear growers lost $34 million in the 2000-2001 crop year alone.

In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture purchased $83 million of canned pears in 2000 and 2001 for domestic feeding programs, California growers voluntarily removed 1,000 acres from production, and Congress provided $20 million in emergency funding to address a major bankruptcy.

The AGOA is making the situation worse and will continue to do so without action by the administration. In repeated filings and public hearings over the past year, the U.S. industry has shown that duty-free access to canned pears from South Africa is severely harming U.S. producers and processors. South African producers and processors are extremely competitive with our domestic industry. In 2001, canned pears from South Africa entered the U.S. market at price levels at least 15 percent below U.S. canned pear prices.

We appreciate the administration's attention to this important issue, and we again urge you to remove duty-free status for canned pears under AGOA.

Sincerely, Senator Patty Murray,
Senator Gordon Smith,
Senator Ron Wyden,
Senator Mike Crapo,
Senator Larry Craig,
Senator Maria Cantwell,
and Senator Dianne Feinstein