( File photo )

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.

Related articles:

Letter: Clarifying the tomato suspension situation

Mexican tomato growers challenge Commerce Department

U.S. withdrawing from tomato suspension agreement with Mexico



Submitted by Paul on Fri, 03/15/2019 - 07:25

This University of Arizona study was funded by the Mexican growers, so it is somewhat biased. The premise that Mexican tomatoes support these 33,000 jobs is ridiculous.

Submitted by Matt on Fri, 03/15/2019 - 10:00

1st off, Paul, the study was not funded by the “Mexican growers.” It was funded by US companies. Check your facts.

2nd, the title of this article is misleading saying the two sides are sparring. The FL propaganda machine is spreading lies and misinformation via paid politicians (thanks Little Marco!). The Mexican delegation is waiting to renegotiate with fact-based evidence in hand. The US consumer is the only one who stands to lose by this government-sponsored war on trade.

Submitted by VRTomato on Fri, 03/15/2019 - 12:35

First off, Matt, I think everyone understands that Mexican import interests paid for the study. And it's not exactly a shocker that there is economic benefit when $2 billion worth of tomatoes are imported. But at what cost to the US tomato industry, jobs, etc.? There are rules to trade. Once the suspension goes away, the case goes to the Int'l Trade Commission where both sides get to present their evidence. Maybe the US side will win or maybe the Mexican side will win. Why is the Mexican side so afraid to go through that process?

Second, to claim that there is some FL propaganda machine is propaganda itself. That's the biggest piece of propaganda that the Mexicans keep spewing, that this is all about Florida. False!

Submitted by QTomato on Fri, 03/15/2019 - 15:51

Matt, check your facts. The government-sponsored war on trade comment is quite comical. NAFTA was government-sponsored as well--with many politicians, special interests groups/benefactors, etc., lining their pockets off of it over the past 20 something years. What has it done? Farms in South Florida alone are down 50% in acreage.

The idea that "the US consumer would be the only one to lose" would be a great to submit to Wikipedia if there was an "example page" for contradictions. So let me get this straight:

1) I would be better off getting my food from another country (one that is 3rd-world for the most part in the growing regions)... since my own country has inferior food safety standards, labor practices, chemical/fertilizer restrictions and monitoring, etc... that seems logical.

2) I should continue this trend up to the point where my local/domestic supply dwindles down to nothing--due to consistent undercutting of markets by foreign suppliers.

3) Once my local supply is almost gone because all of the domestic suppliers have gone broke...I am sure the foreigners will maintain their low prices!

Yet, this for some reason doesn't seem oddly familiar to the argument for the foreigners" product... "We need it to stabilize markets, have consistent supply and consistent prices." Wait a second...

Submitted by Mr Stern on Sun, 03/17/2019 - 12:49

Look people the U S needs to import tomato and other fresh produce in the winter. Most of our great country is blanketed with snow from October to march;. FLA. Growers cannot supply the demand of not only tomato but any fresh vegetable to the massive US market. Same situation is occurring with the citrus market against Brazilian citrus on US off season FLA growers just want to piggyback on US consumers wallets

Submitted by QTomato on Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:24

Mr. Stern........STOP THAT CRAP NARRATIVE. "FLA growers just want to piggyback on US consumer wallets?" You sir maybe in the industry but you sound ignorant as all hell. The argument for stable markets is one thing but FLA growers piggybacking on anything is moronic. Florida farmers are going out of business left and right--yet you somehow think Florida farmers are making an argument to get rich?

The argument is not to stop the imports, its to stop the undercutting...... Mexican imports need an unbreakable floor to their prices. Tomatoes, for example, need to be 40 cents /lb. Please explain how would that destabilize the market or supply? How would that cause high prices? It would be more stabilizing! Plus, Mexican growers would be making more for sure!!!! The ones hurt by it would probably be the importers who play the spread in the middle and take advantage of the Mexican growers... I am sure, from your comments, you are one of the middle guys who wants to keep playing the game as long as you can!

In reply to by Mr Stern (not verified)