Florida’s farmers are still struggling even after the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which received bipartisan support in Congress. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is also calling on Floridians to buy Florida-grown products after Mexico’s “unfair trade practices.”
A new report from the Florida Department of Agriculture shows Florida is losing its market share for seasonal produce while Mexico’s share has continued to increase. The tactic is being referred to as “crop dumping,” which is when Mexican producers intentionally flood the American market with lower priced blueberries, strawberries, and other seasonal crops.
The report shows Florida farmers lost $4 billion in sales and as many as approximately 35,000 jobs. The United States imported Mexican crops at a rate of 580 percent in the last 20 years, including during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the disparity has only gotten worse since USMCA.
“With agriculture as Florida’s second-largest industry, these unfair foreign trade practices and their devastating economic impact should be of grave concern to every single Floridian,” Fried said Monday.
Fried also said Florida’s farmers are used to weathering the storm but the playing field needs to be leveled.
“Florida farmers are used to weathering challenges – from hurricanes to invasive species – and they are used to competition but they need timely and effective relief from the federal government to level the playing field, because right now, we know Mexico and others are not fighting fair,” Fried said.
John Walt Boatwright, director of National Affairs at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, said one of the possible solutions is a refiled piece of legislation in Congress which would allow farmers to bring cases to the International Trade Commission (ITC) and establish claims of unfair trade practices from Mexico.
“It’s very difficult for a regional producer to bring a case to the ITC because, in order to do that, you have to have impacts of nationwide injury,” Boatwright said. “And regional producers, it’s very difficult for many of our commodities to breach that threshold because of that requirement.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is also sponsoring the “Defending Domestic Production Act” which is aimed at fighting Mexico’s unethical trade practices.
“We must ensure the viability of Florida’s fruit and vegetable growers, who for years have struggled to compete with dumped and unfairly priced Mexican imports,” Rubio said. “I firmly believe that food security is national security, and that to ensure our nation’s food security we must defend our food producers from malicious trade practices that are intended to undermine our self-reliance.”
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