The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement fails to address unfair seasonal produce exports from Mexico to the U.S., says Nicole Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture.
Fried, a Democrat, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on April 5 noting that for the last 25 years the North American Free Trade Agreement also has failed to protect Florida produce growers. She asked the administration enact remedies outlined in the Domestic Produce Production Act (S. 16 and HR 101) supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and all 27 Florida House members.
The remedies could be enacted through existing trade authorities and provide assurances to U.S. growers ahead of debate over USMCA, Fried wrote.
Florida’s seasonal producers struggle in the face of Mexico’s massive government subsidies for its producers, significant wage differentials and unfair pricing, she wrote.
“This has resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses and job losses in the tens of thousands across the state,” she wrote.
At the behest of Florida growers, the USTR wanted “a separate domestic industry provision for perishable and seasonable products” when it started USMCA negotiations in 2017.
The Northwest Horticultural Council, in Yakima, Wash., was concerned that could allow regional dumping claims to be used against NW tree fruit growers.
“It was one of the more sensitive items for the fruit and vegetable industry during the negotiations. The U.S. government decided to take that portion out and we were pleased with that,” said Mark Powers, NHC president.
Florida and Georgia continue to have concerns and are trying to address them. That’s understandable, Powers said, adding that he needs to make sure there’s nothing in the Domestic Produce Production Act that might harm Northwest growers.
The legislation probably has support in other states with seasonal vegetables that depend on domestic markets but Florida and George appear to have the most at stake financially, he said.
Florida’s $132 billion annual agricultural sector is the second largest industry in the state with 47,000 commercial farms providing 2 million jobs and exporting $4 billion in commodities to 164 countries, Fried wrote.
Tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, watermelon and blueberries are among the affected commodities, she said.