Georgia produce growers, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and other groups recently testified to federal agencies that domestic growers face a “staggering increase" of produce from Mexico.
The testimony was heard Aug. 20 during an online forum in front of officials from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer’s office, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It followed an Aug. 13 hearing that mostly featured comments from Florida elected officials and growers.
The hearings were scheduled by the USTR after attempts by U.S. groups and growers to include seasonal produce protections in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement failed. The USMCA became official July 1; Lighthizer has said he'll address the issue within 60 days of its implementation.
Bill Brim, president of Lewis Taylor Farms, Tifton, Ga., which produces fruits and vegetables on 5,500 acres, expressed concern for the future.
“Despite our 71‐year history, and despite the support of our dedicated employees, our future is in serious jeopardy,” he said, according to a release from the Georgia association. “Quickly rising imports, primarily from Mexico, are on the verge of putting us out of business. We are experiencing a rapid destruction of the Southeastern fruit and vegetable production sector by reason of imports.”
Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black talked about the “health of farms and reminded USTR that dysfunctional trade can be life-threatening to every American farmer,” according to the release.
“As a fifth-generation farmer I feel certain that due to these unfair practices I will be the last generation of farmers in my family,” Sam Watson of Chill C Farms, Moultrie, testified, according to the release.
Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, asked the USTR to use every import relief tool available.
Hall asked that every import relief tool available be utilized to allow southeastern growers to compete fairly.
“Over the past twenty years, imports of fresh produce from Mexico have grown tremendously,” Hall testified. “The pattern has now shifted from undercutting our growers financial and competitive health, to threatening our industry’s very survival.”