U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a plan in early September to ask the International Trace Commission to start a Section 201 global safeguard investigation. Section 201 investigations allow the president to grant temporary import relief by raising import duties or imposing other barriers on imports that injure or threaten to injure growers of the same commodity in the U.S.
The blueberry commission board, at its Sept. 22 meeting, voted to “actively support” the investigation. California is on tract to produce about 70 million blueberries for the 2020 season, according to a news release.
“However, as imports have continued to rise over the years, California growers have found it increasingly difficult to compete with the volume of foreign producers,” according to the California Blueberry Commission’s (CBC) release. “Additionally, the CBC recognizes that foreign competition from imported blueberries negatively impacts not just the California blueberry industry but the United States blueberry industry as a whole.”
The administration’s plan was released less than a month after two hearings featuring testimony from Florida and Georgia growers and others, including blueberry growers. Although the administration’s wish to include protections for U.S. growers of seasonal produce in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was not successful, the USTR promised to follow up to look at how imports were affecting domestic growers.
According to the CBC, it believes it was “vital to vote in support of the Section 201 investigation in order to maintain the viability of the domestic blueberry industry,” according to the release.