Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA), recently participated in a panel discussion on the state of the industry at the Florida Ag Expo. AgNet Media’s Abbey Taylor caught up with him after the discussion.
Stuart said he hopes Florida growers will have a good season after what he called, “a tough few years.” “We need good, solid crops, but more importantly, we need good returns in the marketplace,” he said.
A big topic that was discussed during the panel was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA renegotiation talks are entering their fifth round, and the process is slowly moving along. Stuart has been an advocate for NAFTA reform from the beginning, due to the mass amounts of Florida growers who are negatively impacted by the agreement.
Stuart said he is hopeful that the U.S. administration will come out of renegotiations successfully. The administration is aware of the growers who struggle with NAFTA, and Stuart feels U.S. representatives will make sure to protect those growers. “It (renegotiation) is going to be a challenge; there’s no question about that,” Stuart said.
What he has heard from the renegotiation talks has been encouraging. “We look forward to a successful conclusion,” he said.
The panel also discussed labor and the proposed H-2C program. The H-2C program is a guest worker program that would replace the current H-2A program. The H-2C program is said to be more efficient and cause less burden to the farmer compared to the H-2A program.
Stuart said he is happy to see that the government is taking action on creating a more workable guest worker program. “The H-2A program has some significant limitations; it is not designed for everybody. So, the fact that we’ve got some movement in the House of Representatives toward trying to find a better program, we’re very appreciative,” Stuart said.
However, Stuart believes the H-2C program could use some improvement. He added that he will be working closely with the House and the Senate to identify the appropriate changes and advocate for those changes to be made.
Hear the interview:
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