Florida growers are struggling against imported produce from Mexico, and will continue to do so until the U.S. government steps in with trade relief, according to Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association testimony to the International Trade Commission.
Association CEO Mike Stuart testified to the commission Nov. 15, as part of its investigation to learn the effects of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), aka NAFTA 2.0.
According to the law, the government must report on potential effects of the USMCA on the economy and specific industry, according to a news release from the association.
Growers of seasonal crops in the Southeast lobbied hard for trade remedies during the NAFTA negotiations, particularly seeking recourse by using seasonal data to trigger anti-dumping investigations.
The measure was not included in the USMCA.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Florida Strawberry Growers Association president Kenneth Parker and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black also testified in favor of trade relief, according to the release.
“As Mexican fruits and vegetables have swamped our market from one year to the next, they have systematically decimated our prices and market shares,” Stuart said in the release.
“To a growing extent, the farmers in the Southeast are finding it impossible to keep pace with rising costs and are folding their tents.”
During his testimony, Stuart referred to a University of Florida study on the effect of Mexican government subsidies on agriculture.
The Florida Tomato Exchange earlier requested that the Commerce Department drop the suspension agreement the government has with Mexico in setting a floor price on tomatoes sent to the U.S.
The agreement is under sunset review by the International Trade Commission and Commerce Department.
Mexico tomato growers issued a release Nov. 15 after the Florida Tomato Exchange request, saying the floor price ensures fair trade.
“(The Florida Tomato Exchange) did not raise any issues for the first five years of the agreement and its recent claims are all directly contradicted by U.S. Department of Agriculture data and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s own finding to date,” according to the release, sent by Martin Ley, president of importer Fresh Evolution, Nogales, Ariz.