GFVGA Warns of Potential Elimination of the SE Produce Industry if USMCA (NAFTA 2.0) is Approved
Monday, November 19, 2018
The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has filed comments with the International Trade Commission regarding the damage NAFTA has done to Georgia’s produce industry. Speaking on behalf of GFVGA, GA Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black outlined the unprecedented growth of Mexico imports into the United States during a hearing on Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.
During his testimony, Commissioner Black stated, “Based on the current level of Mexican fruit and vegetable imports and the potential for additional exponential unrestrained growth of Mexican imports if the new USMCA Agreement is approved, it will be tantamount to distributing U.S. government printed “going out of business” signs across a substantial part of rural Georgia and the Southeast. . . . . market windows continue to shrink for our producers while produce streams across our southern border arriving from a country known for an inconsistent regulatory environment.“
The hearing was being held for the International Trade Commission to gather information on the likely impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) if approved by Congress. This agreement will replace the current NAFTA agreement. Also presenting testimony at the hearing was Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association President Mike Stuart and the Florida Strawberry Commission Executive Director Kenneth Parker.
GFVGA has strongly opposed USMCA as it will cause further harm to Georgia and southeastern growers in absence of any measures that can provide effective near-term relief against unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables. Pre-hearing testimony filed by GFVGA outlined the surge in US imports of unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables that have devastated markets and is economically destroying Georgia growers. Since Southeastern growers have no recourse to stop Mexico from dumping unfairly traded produce into US markets, imports have grown uncontrolled:
- The value of Mexican tomato imports have grown from $552M in 2002 to $1,842M in 2017, a 233% increase.
- Bell peppers imports have tripled – 339M pounds in 2000 to 909M pounds in 2017, a 168% increase.
- Blueberries imports has seen the largest increase, going from 1M pounds in 2007 to 48M pounds in 2017, a 1,619% increase!!
In the pre-hearing filing, GFVGA points out Mexico’s extraordinary growth in fruit and vegetable shipments to the U.S. has been driven not by ordinary market forces, but unfair subsidies, sales prices significantly below costs of production, and extremely low labor costs. The Government of Mexico has steadily expanded fruit and vegetable support payments. Unfortunately, Southeastern growers have no recourse to file ‘anti-dumping’ violations against Mexico or growers in Mexico.
Commissioner Black used the upcoming SEC Championship game as a comparison, outlining the playing field, regulation football, and rules governing recruiting, scholarship and practice hours were the same for both teams. He stated, “Unfortunately, equal rules of competition do not exist with the USMCA agreement. The pre-hearing briefs and testimony this morning has shown that. There is no opportunity for a referee to throw a yellow flag when a violation occurs. Our southeastern produce growers have no NCAA to which to file a suit when product is dumped in the US at below production costs.
“In the absence of effective, near-term relief measures to redress this issue for Georgia and Southeast producers, the harm being caused by Mexico’s unfair trade practices will only intensify, putting at further risk the survival of this important industry and generations of Georgia farm families," Black said. "Our Southeastern growers are not playing for a conference trophy, they are on the playing field of life working for the survival of their family farm.”
Black concluded his testimony with a request to the ITC Commissioners, “On behalf of the Georgia and Southeastern growers struggling to save their operations from these unequal rules of competition and unfair trade practices, I respectfully request the ITC reflect in its report to congress that the USMCA will destroy our Southeastern produce growers and the rural communities where they live!”
Mike Bruorton, President of GFVGA further noted the seriousness of the USMCA, “This is a critical issue to the livelihood of GFVGA and our membership. Farm operations in Florida are already closing due to NAFTA unfair trade. Georgia farms will be next. GFVGA will continue to express our objection to this agreement if an administrative solution to the unfair trade practices is not included in the final agreement. We sincerely appreciate Commissioner Black taking time to testify at the ITC Hearing on behalf of Georgia’s fruit and vegetable industry.”
Growers wishing to file comments with the ITC concerning the United States Mexico Canada Agreement can find instructions on the GFVGA web site or contact the GFVGA office – 706-845-8200.