(March 27) President Bush on March 23 reaffirmed his commitment to renewing the Andean Trade Preference Act, which U.S. grower-shippers of asparagus say has hurt their industry.

Speaking in Lima, Peru, Bush urged Congress to renew the measure, which grants tariff-free status to 6,000 products exported from Peru and other Andean countries. The House of Representatives has approved the legislation, but it remains stalled in the Senate. The act was created in 1992 to encourage Andean countries to stop producing coca plants. It expired in December.

U.S. asparagus industry officials are lobbying against the renewal. Competition from Peru has caused asparagus prices in the U.S. to fall and has led many growers to cut or cease production, industry officials say.

Alan Schreiber, administrator of the Washington Asparagus Commission, Pasco, said that if the Andean Trade Preference Act is approved without an exemption for U.S. asparagus growers, the Washington asparagus industry will collapse “within a few years.”