Baucus, Tester urge open access to Indian market for Montana pea and lentil farmers

Senators Call on USDA to Find a Solution that Ensures Access to the Indian Market

(Washington, DC) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus  and Jon Tester called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today to ensure Montana farmers can continue to sell their crops to India, after the Indian government recently imposed stricter requirements that could effectively block U.S. pea and lentil imports. 
“Peas and lentils are staples of Montana agriculture and India provides a critical market for these crops.  It is essential that we act swiftly and effectively to prevent barriers to the world’s largest pea and lentil market and keep India open for Montana famers,” Baucus said.  

“Montana has a wide reputation for raising the best ag products the world has to offer, and red tape shouldn’t get in the way of doing business with important partners like India,” said Tester, who addressed the issue during an agriculture discussion session in Great Falls last week.  “We want to do everything we can to keep this valuable market open because it will make Montana’s farms more viable, and that means jobs and new opportunities here at home.”

The value of Montana’s pea and lentil crop reached $70 million last year and India is the number one export market for U.S. peas and lentils.  Recently, the Indian government increased testing requirements for pea and lentil shipments into the country.  There is potential that the new requirements could become too burdensome for U.S. exporters to meet, effectively blocking pea and lentil sales. In a letter to Secretary Vilsack today, Baucus and Tester urged USDA to work with other agencies to ensure that the required testing does not impede pea and lentil imports from the U.S. and that the Indian market remains open for Montana farmers.

Text of the letter Baucus and Tester sent to Secretary Vilsack follows below.


October 14, 2010

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Mr. Secretary,

I am writing to ask for your assistance to avoid any disruption in U.S. exports of peas and lentils to India.  The Indian government has recently begun to apply its weed seed testing requirement to peas and lentils, which could block these products from reaching the Indian market.  Although U.S. pea and lentil shipments have not yet been turned away from Indian ports, the threat is real and requires our urgent attention.

Peas and lentils are an important crop for farmers in my home of state of Montana, with sales reaching $70 million in 2009.  And India was the number one export market in the world for U.S. peas and lentils during the first eight months of 2010.  We must work to maintain market access for peas and lentils in India – and indeed for all commodities in all markets – as robust U.S. agricultural exports are providing valuable support to our economic recovery.

I understand that the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service are working diligently with the U.S. pea and lentil industry on this problem.  I urge you to give these agencies your clear direction to find a solution that ensures that U.S. pea and lentil farmers will be able to continue to sell their product in the Indian market.


U.S. Senator Max Baucus
U.S. Senator Jon Tester