Aug 13, 2020
Harm from Mexican trade cited by Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, growers

The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and a group of Florida growers told U.S. trade officials Aug. 13 that the state’s produce industry is in crisis and called for timely relief from the devastating effects of surging volumes of unfairly priced Mexican produce imports during Florida’s winter growing season.

According to a news release, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) President Mike Joyner asked for an investigation of Mexican trade practices under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 “without delay.”

“Florida’s fresh-produce industry is in deep crisis,” he said. “It needs prompt USTR trade relief if our country hopes to continue feeding Americans domestically grown fruits and vegetables in the fall, winter and spring months.  To save Florida’s produce industry, we respectfully urge USTR to launch an investigation of Mexican trade practices and policies.”

Producers of fresh fruits and vegetables also testified about the harm they have suffered from Mexico’s unfair trade practices over the past two decades. In addition, researchers from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida testified about their economic studies that show explosive growth in imports of Mexican fruit and vegetable crops to the U.S. since 2000.

In her submitted testimony, Marie Bedner of Bedner Farms in Palm Beach and Martin counties said the future of farming in Florida is bleak. Her multigenerational farm has produced bell peppers since 1950.

“Up and down the road from our location, we’ve seen farms go out of business every year… because they simply can’t compete with the unfairly priced Mexican fruits and vegetables and the surging volumes coming across the border,” she said. “We need relief, and we need it sooner rather than later.”

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce held the event to hear from growers and seek feedback on how the Administration can remedy the unfair harm. Originally set for April 7 in Plant City, the hearing was rescheduled as a virtual event because of COVID-19.

Lighthizer in January told Florida’s congressional delegation that his office was “fully committed” to addressing the issue. “The Administration notes your continuing concern that certain unfair, non-market trade practices have increased the production and exportation of seasonal and perishable products to the United States and caused unfair pricing in a manner that has harmed U.S. season and perishable products sold in U.S. commerce,” he wrote in a letter to the lawmakers.

Joyner thanked the USTR, Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture for their commitment to growers. “Let me conclude by reiterating my appreciation for your time today and by passing along a quote from one of our growers when I asked him to summarize the problem.  He said simply, ‘We’re being buried by volume and crushed by price.’ ”

For more information about the issue, visit FFVA’s website.

Trade – Field Hearing Testimony – Mike Joyner

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