Brown refuted allegations that the Commerce Department acted for political reasons. He said growers in Florida may have lost $100 million to $150 million last season, with three multi-generational companies closing their doors.
“We cannot sustain an agreement that is tilted very heavily in favor of the import industry,” he said.
What’s more, Brown called the idea that Mexico grows different type of tomatoes than the U.S. a “crock.” “There’s a domestic greenhouse industry that grows exactly the same thing the Mexicans grow, and there’s a field industry that grows exactly the same thing the Mexicans grow, so there’s no difference in the product,” he said.
During the 16 years of the suspension, he said the U.S. tomato industry shrank as Mexico’s almost doubled.
“Now tell me the suspension agreement is something the domestic industry should want to sustain,” he said. “That’s why 90% of the domestic industry spoke up and said we can’t do this anymore.”
The Department of Commerce said 80 U.S. tomato growers representing 90% of U.S. production had no interest in continuing with the suspension agreement, satisfying the 85% threshold for consulting “substantially all” domestic producers.
Jungmeyer said growers and exporters believe the Department of Commerce should review those numbers.
“We believe (claims of 90% support) is not right and they are basing that data on some information from USDA ERS that only includes data from 20 states,” he said.