The American Blueberry Growers Alliance’s (ABGA) case has been made. The data supports its stance of serious injury regarding blueberry imports. It’s now up to the International Trade Committee (ITC) which will vote on Thursday to determine whether the domestic industry has been seriously injured.
“We feel like we presented a good case. The numbers do not lie,” said Jerome Crosby, Georgia blueberry grower and chairman of the American Blueberry Growers Alliance. “There’s a lot of people that have different opinions. I’m looking at the numbers and the pricing and the effects of what we see on the blueberry farmers. One of our strongest arguments is you’ve got to look at the net income of a blueberry farming operation. When you see the downward spiral we’ve experienced, then that is the sum total of the effects of the import markets. That is to us the defining factor.”
Thursday’s decision by the ITC will come a month after the ABGA and opposition groups testified during a virtual hearing regarding the impact of blueberry imports.
“Once they reach a decision, then we will move to the next step. If it’s affirmative, we’ll be into the remedy phase, and if it’s not affirmative, then there are other options we will be pursuing. We really won’t know until Thursday. It’s in their hands,” Crosby said.
Data Supports Their Case
Crosby and other blueberry growers who testified in January believe the data supports their claim of serious injury. Blueberry imports from countries like Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Canada have increased by 62% since 2015, according to the ABGA. The National Farmers Union submitted a letter to the ITC on Friday, Feb. 5, noting that growers’ operating returns fell 32.4% between 2015 and 2019.
Nikki Fried, Florida Ag Commissioner, testified during the January hearing. She stated that Florida has a $62.3 million blueberry industry, but its market share has declined by 38% since 2015. It has resulted in $67 million in lost potential production. She added that Mexico’s market share has increased by 2,100% since 2009.
Letters of Support
A coalition of industry groups, including the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, submitted letters to the ITC last week, spotlighting the consequences of blueberry imports.
“Not only do these imports threaten domestic businesses and livelihoods, they also expose U.S. consumers to products from countries with poor or inconsistent product safety records,” John Hoblick, president of the 136,000-member Florida Farm Bureau Federation, said in a ABGA press release.
Elected officials and state agricultural leaders are also in the ABGA’s corner. These include U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Gary Peters (MI). Both co-signed a letter of support that was submitted to the ITC on Feb. 3. Representatives and industry leaders also testified during the January hearing.
About the ABGA
According to its website, the American Blueberry Growers Alliance is a national association representing blueberry growers and farmers in the United States. ABGA provides a unified voice for blueberry growers in states across the country, including California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan. It advocates on behalf of their interests and for the long-term viability of the domestic blueberry industry.