The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service plans to issue a second 60-day stay on allowing lemons from Argentina into the U.S.
Two days after Trump was sworn in as president, the USDA issued a 60-day stay on a Dec. 23 final rule that opened the door for lemons from Argentina.
At the time, the agency said it was acting in “accordance with guidance from the White House issued Jan. 20.”
The agency made the latest announcement on its website March 17 but offered no reason for the second 60-day delay.
Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter, Calif.-based California Citrus Mutual, said he believes the primary reason for the stay is the lack of senior management at the USDA to evaluate the issue on behalf of the Trump administration. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, has not yet been confirmed.
In January, a representative for the Argentine Citrus Federation http://www.federcitrus.org/news.asp had called the first 60-day delay normal for a transition between administrations. The group has issued no statement on its website about the second 60-day stay.
California Citrus Mutual believes the rule to allow imports of Argentine lemons is flawed, Nelsen said March 20.
“We continue to argue the economic impact is totally wrong,” he said.
The final rule states that U.S. lemon growers, packinghouses and employees would be negatively affected by the rule, which Nelsen said runs counter to the campaign rhetoric and the actions of the Trump administration that no business sector should adversely be affected by a trade agreement.
“There is a sensitivity to that, and as a result, let’s wait until we get a new leadership team in here and see what they want to do,” Nelsen said.
In a previously published economic analysis of the rule to allow lemon imports from Argentina, the USDA said annual imports of fresh lemon from Argentina are expected to range from 15,000 to 20,000 metric tons. Most Argentine lemon imports are projected from April 1 to Aug. 31, according to the USDA.