Federal trade and agriculture officials have rescheduled hearings for growers to testify on how foreign trade is harming U.S. agriculture, with a focus on the effects of Mexican produce imports on southwest U.S. growers.
The hearings were originally scheduled in April in Florida and Georgia, and will now be through videoconference, according to a news release from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s office.
The online hearings will be 9 a.m. Aug. 13 and Aug. 20. The hearings will be public and viewable online, as well as transcripts. Information on how to register for the hearings will be available closer to the dates.
Growers and other industry stakeholders who want to participate have until Aug. 3 to submit comments to the Federal Register.
As of July 22, 49 comments had been submitted, overwhelmingly from growers in Florida and Georgia, with stories of how imports from Mexico is harming their operations. Other comments came from Michigan and California.
“It’s critically important that we speak loudly and clearly that we need a remedy for the harm caused by Mexico’s unfair trading practices,” according to a statement from the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. “FFVA urges producer members and other related businesses affected by this issue to submit comments online.”
The FFVA is asking members to tell officials how losses due to Mexican imports under the North American Free Trade Agreement have affected their farm, family and community.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced NAFTA, became effective recently. Associations representing growers in Florida, Georgia and other regions lobbied U.S. trade officials to include seasonality rules that allowed growers the ability to claim unfair trade and dumping practices were harming U.S. growers.
While the USMCA didn’t include seasonal provisions, Lighthizer’s office, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce established the hearings with the possibility of addressing the issue with existing trade laws.
“At the hearings, officials from the federal agencies will hear from interested persons on how the Trump administration can support these producers and redress any unfair harm,” according to the USTR release.