Growers and importers of Mexican tomatoes and segments of the U.S. tomato industry, along with U.S. legislators, continue to spar over a Department of Commerce decision to end an agreement that holds an anti-dumping investigation at bay.
On one side, U.S. tomato growers, most prominently in Florida, charge that Mexican imports have skirted the agreement and are threatening the existence of their industry. On the other side, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas said dropping the agreement could threaten up to 33,000 U.S. jobs and cause tomato price hikes at grocery stores.
In a mid-March letter to the Commerce Department, the FPAA said the department’s decision to drop the suspension agreement on May 7 would have immediate effect, citing a University of Arizona study.
“Even a 5% reduction in supplies of Mexican tomatoes would result in consumers paying up to 25 cents more per pound at supermarkets, or up to $790 million more per year for tomatoes,” according to the letter, attributed to the FPAA board of directors.
“The truth appears to be that leaders of the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) are on a campaign to portray themselves as the victims to trade while leveraging U.S. trade law to corner the market and drive out competition,” FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer said in a news release.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and five Congressmen from the state responded to criticism of the Commerce Department’s decision, releasing a series of statements on the issue.
“Washington’s willingness to sacrifice entire domestic industries and local production just to shave pennies off the costs that American consumers might pay for products is one of the main reasons why Donald Trump is president today,” Rubio said in a news release. “ … We cannot stand by as some profit from unfair fruit and vegetable imports directly at the expense of their neighbors and countrymen.”
Rep. Neal Dunn said he applauds the Trump administration for “putting domestic growers first.”
“The data is overwhelmingly clear, Mexico has been waging an assault on southeastern tomato producers for years– and getting away with it,” Dunn said in the release.
Rep. Ross Spano said that tomato imports are not the only issue.
“Much like tomato growers, strawberry growers in my district are under attack from illegal ‘dumping’ practices and are unable to defend themselves under present treaties, he said in the statement.