Time to take a fair look at the tomato trade

11/05/2012 01:42:00 PM
Reggie Brown

When domestic producers filed the petition on June 22, they had every reason to expect that Commerce would agree to withdrawal, and do so quickly, as has been the precedent.

This is the first time where foreign producers have fought to keep a U.S. trade remedy in place. That tells the real story.

The current situation favors Mexican growers and protects the windfall profits they’ve been reaping.

Mexican growers are pursuing scare and bullying tactics. They’ve threatened retaliation against customers and producers of products not involved in the case.

These threats, if carried out, are simply illegal.

Mexican special interests have also suggested that domestic producers are trying to eliminate their product from the marketplace to eliminate competition. This accusation is totally false.

Terminating the suspension agreement and suspended investigation simply eliminates any existing government oversight of imports. No restrictions on trade will result.

Domestic growers are entitled to free and fair trade — and that’s all they want.

It’s time to end the charade, assess the facts and level the playing field. That is the only chance we have to salvage our domestic tomato market and save the tens of thousands of jobs nationwide that are currently at risk.

Reggie Brown is the executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange.


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jack    
Texas  |  November, 06, 2012 at 06:41 AM

We are so touched by the Florida Tomato Cartel's deep concern for their worker's. Six decades of exploitation have certainly illustrated that. Oh..bullies....The Five Families of the tomato Mafia, so masterfully represented by Mr. Brown, are indeed the trend-setters for bullying. More falsehoods from Florida.....

Gary    
Cincinnati  |  November, 06, 2012 at 09:32 AM

If the five families of the tomato Mafia, as Jack puts it, has their way, they will still be growing only mature green tomatoes for the next 50 years and blaming other producers for their problems - price, market share, flavor. One day the fast food merchants are going to say "one year and you have to have a vine ripe tomato". Then what. Mr. Brown?

MM    
AZ  |  November, 06, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Tens of thousands of jobs nationwide are at risk if the agreement is cancelled... I don't know where these jobs Reggie references are coming from, but I believe that figure to be false and misleading. Regarding the "threats" that are being made, they are not threats at all. The comments Mr. Brown is referencing actually didnt come from the producers at all. And to his comment about the legality of the situation, Mexico has won a dumping case against US producers of other goods and NO DUTIES WERE IMPOSED, though the reserve the right to do so at any time. Dear Mr. Brown, enough with your shenanigans, falsities, lies and propaganda. If you want to talk about the facts, please keep it to the facts. The day that Florida growers agree to NEVER SELL A SINGLE BOX below their costs of production, we'll talk.

Lance Jungmeyer    
Nogales, AZ  |  November, 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM

Reggie Brown uses misleading information and faulty mathematics in this piece. He asserts that the current reference price under the tomato agreement is only 21% of the cost of production in Mexico. To arrive at this number, he references a 2007 Mexican government study that looked at marginal producers of 0.1-5 hectares. It is misleading to assert that small projects such as this have the same cost structure as larger commercial operations. In Sinaloa, for instance, there are numerous greenhouse operations of 100 hectares or larger. But his faulty math is most misleading, and embarrassingly so. In a filing with the Department of Commerce, Mr. Brown’s group references this same study, but instead inflates the size of the operations to 20 hectares to 50 hectares. Furthermore, Mr. Brown’s group overstated the company sizes of these farms by 1000%, by incorrectly converting square meters to hectares. In reality, 10,000 square meters equals 1 hectare. Mr. Brown’s group relied on a conversion factor wherein 1,000 square meters equals 1 hectare. Faulty mathematics aside, the notion that an entire industry of thousands of Mexican tomato producers could collude to sell at only 21% of their costs for a long period of time stretches the imagination. The fact is, Mexican tomato producers have evolved and become more productive. The seed varieties typically grown in Mexican produce fruit sets that allow the plant to be harvested vine-ripe about every other day for up a period of 15-20 weeks. By contrast, a typical pole-grown Florida tomato is picked only 2-3 times. Mr. Brown has said his eventual plan is to seek relief under U.S. trade law. But one must ask, why should the Federal government reward an uncompetitive industry?

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