The Packer’s Tom Karst visited Sept. 15 with Brittany Lee, executive director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association.
Lee also is a blueberry grower and is vice president of Orange Heights, Fla.-based Florida Blue Farms.
There are about 920 blueberry farms in Florida, representing about $295 million dollars in economic impact for Florida, Lee said.
Lee talked with Karst about the ups and downs of the blueberry industry over the past 10 years, especially relating to big increases in imports in recent years.
She also spoke of the devastating effect COVID-19 had on the blueberry industry in March and April.
Lee said seasonal trade protection is needed for Florida blueberry growers.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has asked the International Trade Commission to start a Section 201 “global safeguard investigation” on how blueberry imports have adversely affected U.S. growers;
“This is something that Florida growers have been asking for well before we had the field hearings and, as an industry, we stood with the rest of Florida agriculture,” she said. “We appreciate the administration’s dedication to resolving the issues we’re having in the Southeast with seasonal perishable crops.“
Lee said the Section 201 investigation will give blueberry growers an opportunity to “pause” imports and, depending on the outcome, reasonably limit the amount of blueberries that come in to the U.S. for a period of time.
“At the end of the day, I truly believe that the American consumer prefers a domestic blueberry, or domestic fruit and vegetable, over an imported product.”