U.S. pear and apple exports to Europe are in steep decline, dropping 73 percent over the past five years.
That's a loss of $33 million a year in export revenue, according to a bipartisan group of nine senators that wants the issue to receive special attention today when the U.S. kicks off its second round of trade talks with the European Union.
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state and Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who are leading the effort, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman, asking that U.S. trade negotiators insist on equal standards for agriculture produce as a way to increase exports.
"The erosion of the European market for U.S. apple and pear exports is largely the result of different regulatory standards and requirements for pesticides and food additives," the senators wrote in the letter.
They were joined by Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patty Murray of Washington state, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.
It's a major issue in Washington state, which produces more than 60 percent of the total U.S. apple crop. At the same time, the fresh pear industry alone supports more than 7,000 jobs.