Apr 12, 2021Michigan congressional members back investigation of cucumber, squash imports
Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., announced April 8 his support of a section 332 Investigation by the International Trade Commission (ITC) into unfair trade practices that are negatively impacting operations for cucumber and squash growers in Michigan and across the nation.
Joining Huizenga on the letter are U.S. Representatives Bergman, Kildee, McClain and Upton from Michigan.
According to the USDA, Michigan ranked first nationally for the production of processed cucumbers and second behind only Florida for fresh cucumbers. The processing production value for Michigan farmers was $33 million. The value of fresh cucumbers was $22.5 million for Michigan farmers. In terms of squash production, Michigan ranked third in the nation for fresh summer squash and second for fresh winter squash according to the USDA. The production value was $4.6 million for processed squash and $32.5 million for fresh squash.
In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, 30 members of Congress from Michigan, Georgia, and Florida lay out concerns using data from the Florida Department of Agriculture regarding imports from Mexico gaining significant market shares in the United States at the expense of American farmers.
“Seasonal cucumber and squash imports from Mexico continue to dramatically impact U.S. markets and threaten the future of domestic farm production of perishable produce,” wrote the members. “This Section 332 investigation by the ITC for cucumbers and squash is needed to make a meaningful determination as to the impact of these seasonal imports on our markets. Market changes occur quickly and can devastate a grower’s season in a matter of days if imports increase and the resulting price decreases coincide with harvest. We appreciate your efforts on behalf of our growers and rural communities.”
“As a third generation and family operated farm in West Michigan, we take pride in the high-quality produce that we grow. Unfortunately, if we are unable to remain competitive with the unfair trade practices and the surge of cheap imports that threaten our very livelihood many more of us growers will have to pursue other means to support our families resulting in higher food prices for the American consumer. I appreciate Congressman Huizenga for continuing to fight to level the playing field for west Michigan growers, ” said David Gavin of Gavin Orchards and Produce in Coopersville.
“Michigan Farm Bureau is glad to see the IUSITC is taking a look at how foreign imports are negatively impacting U.S. cucumber and squash growers. This is not a new challenge for our growers and attention from federal regulators is long overdue. We appreciate Congressman Huizenga and other Members of Congress for standing with our farmers on this critical issue, ” said John Kran, who serves as National Legislative Counsel for Michigan Farm Bureau.
“Michigan is known as one of the most agriculturally diverse places in the world,”Huizenga said. “Vegetable growers in West Michigan deserve to compete on a level playing field and I will continue to be a strong voice in the effort to make that happen.”
A copy of the letter is available here as well as below.
U.S. International Trade Commission
500 E Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20436
RE: Investigation Nos. 332-584
Dear Chairman Kearns and Commissioners:
We want to express our support for the Section 332 investigation for cucumbers and squash as requested by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The Section 332 investigation will provide assistance to American produce growers as they struggle with seasonal imports during their harvest season. Seasonal cucumber and squash imports from Mexico continue to dramatically impact U.S. markets and threaten the future of domestic farm production of perishable produce. Import data from land grant universities and state departments of agriculture affirm that seasonal imported squash and cucumbers negatively impact our vegetable growers, their markets, and communities.
According to a recent report by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the total weight of squash shipped into or within the U.S. has increased by 13.75% between 2015 to 2020. Of this increase, 84.49% is accounted for by imports from Mexico. While imported squash from Mexico has increased in both volume and market share as U.S. demand for fresh and chilled squash increases, the growth in the size of the overall market did not translate into growth for domestic producers.
The FDACS report also indicated a similar trend in market share decline for cucumber producing states. Florida, Georgia, and Michigan, our nation’s top producing cucumber states, have each seen a significant reduction in market share and shipment weight ranging from 35% to 63% in the last 20 years. However, in 2020 the market share of imported cucumbers from Mexico was at a 34% increase with a shipment weight of 1.5 billion pounds (134% increase). As the total weight of cucumbers shipped into or within the U.S. has increased 75% in the past 20 years, from 1.2 billion pounds to 2.1 billion pounds, 853 million pounds is accounted for by imports from Mexico (94.7%). Like squash, the growth of the overall market did not translate into growth for domestic producers.
Additionally, a 2019 economic study by the University of Georgia suggests that if import and pricing trends continue, rural Georgia economies face the loss of $1 billion in economic impact including 8,000 jobs. This Section 332 investigation by the ITC for cucumbers and squash is needed to make a meaningful determination as to the impact of these seasonal imports on our markets. Market changes occur quickly and can devastate a grower’s season in a matter of days if imports increase and the resulting price decreases coincide with harvest. Please feel free to contact us for additional information. We appreciate your efforts on behalf of our growers and rural communities.