Sep 9, 2022Florida Congressional leaders seek investigation into Mexican imports
A bipartisan group of Florida’s congressional delegation has filed a Section 301 petition on behalf of Florida’s fruit and vegetable producers, alleging unfair trade practices with an influx of imports from Mexico.
“For too long, specialty crop growers across the U.S. have faced the devastating effects of unfair imports from Mexico,” Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA), said in a news release. “The urgency for immediate, effective and enforceable relief cannot be overstated to support a U.S.-grown food supply and restore market fairness. The time to act is now.”
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association and Florida Farm Bureau joined the FFVA’s response to the Section 301 petition, an effort led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla).
Under the Trade Act of 1974, the petition requests the U.S. Trade Representative to “conduct an investigation into the flood of imported seasonal and perishable agricultural products from Mexico.” It details the history of expansive government subsidies to Mexico’s fruit and vegetable sector, which are almost solely responsible for the corresponding decline in Florida production of fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office must review the allegation and determine whether to initiate an investigation within 45 days of receiving the petition.
“This is an unfortunate, but necessary, step toward correcting the unfair trade practices which are driving our farm families out of business,” Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb S. Smith said in the release.
Over the last year, several reports have documented the economic impact of and the extraordinary challenges that domestic growers are experiencing amidst surging imports from Mexico. This includes reports from both the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
This action follows fact-finding investigations by the U.S. International Trade Commission under Sections 201 and 332 of the Trade Act of 1974 for select commodities. These investigations were part of a larger suite of commitments jointly announced by the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. departments of Commerce and Agriculture in September 2020. The plan outlined specific actions each agency would take, and more than two years later, some of those commitments remain unfulfilled.
“The unfair trading practices have to be addressed with timely, effective, and durable measures in order to protect our nation’s food security,” Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said in the release. “Specialty crop farmers have done their best to hold onto the ground they have in the market, but now is the time for relief in order to ensure domestically grown produce stays on the grocery store shelves.”
TOP PHOTO: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer inspects a shipment of Mexican peppers arriving at El Paso, Texas. CBP file photo.