Raises concern over Mexico’s unfair trade practices and its effect on Georgia farmers
ATLANTA, Ga. – Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) testified today on Mexico’s unfair trade practices that are severely and negatively impacting Georgia’s seasonal and perishable produce farmers during a virtual hearing hosted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). The virtual hearing was held to allow stakeholders – including growers, producers, and farmers – an opportunity to continue conversations with USTR about how best to address unfair foreign trade practices.
Last month, Collins and Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging the Administration to protect Georgia farmers from Mexico’s unfair trade practices as it works to implement the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
To read more about the hearing, click here.
To watch Collins’ testimony, click here or on the image below.
Remarks as prepared:
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak today about the important issues facing the seasonal and perishable produce industry in Georgia and throughout our country. Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Perdue, and Secretary Ross, thank you for having me today to share my views and concerns on behalf of Georgia’s agricultural industry.
Before I begin my testimony, I want to commend the efforts of this Administration in coming together to achieve a momentous trade deal in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). There is no denying that that this historic trade deal will increase our global competitiveness, strengthen our economy, and support our farmers. I am grateful for these efforts and the outcome – I know that Georgians will appreciate the effects of this agreement on our economy and I appreciate the President and his Administration’s hard work to get America a better deal.
Over the last several months, we have seen our nation’s farmers, growers, and producers struggle through the economic downturn wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. At the Federal level, it has been a priority of mine to safeguard the livelihoods of Georgia’s hardworking farmers who have never stopped working to put food on the tables of families across the country. This includes my work with this Administration to ensure the H-2A workforce many of Georgia’s growers depend on was not unnecessarily reduced. Unfortunately, the pandemic is unforgiving, but I will continue working with my colleagues in the Georgia delegation to make sure our farmers, growers, and producers are taken care of.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s growers and producers of seasonal and perishable goods continue to face a threat outside of the coronavirus, and that threat must be highlighted and addressed at the Federal level. Over the past several years, the agricultural market for seasonal and perishable goods has seen a growing saturation of Mexican products as a result of that country’s unfair trade practices. It is my hope that this hearing is the Administration’s first step in addressing this unfair trade dynamic.
As you may know, Mexico’s increased market share of produce and perishable goods at record-low prices in the United States has severely and negatively impacted the Southeast’s seasonal and perishable produce farmers. To provide an example of one commodity that has been disastrously struck by Mexico’s practices – Mexico’s share of the U.S. blueberry market has gone up by 2,111% over the last ten years. Such an increase obviously shuts out growers of one of Georgia’s top commodities, blueberries, and deprives Georgia and the country of the benefits a thriving, American-majority blueberry market could have on my state’s economy and the national economy as a whole.
Why has Mexico obtained such a massive stake in our produce market? Because the government of Mexico began to subsidize the development of Mexico’s produce industry. These subsidies have operated to distort trade and, coupled with Mexico’s unfair pricing practices, have resulted in Mexico obtaining an undeniable advantage in the U.S. market. This has continued to happen over the last decade at the expense of our growers.
While the USMCA will make great advancements in trade for many industries across the country, recent studies indicate that – even with the full implementation of USMCA – Georgia stands to lose nearly $1 billion in annual economic output in the grower industry. The same study shows that industry could lose over 8,000 jobs. It goes without saying what this could mean for many of the families that I represent who depend on the paychecks they receive from growing and producing. The outlook is grim and these consequences would be devastating.
For many growers, the consequences of continuing to allow Mexico to get away with its trade-distorting practices will be Earth-shattering. In Georgia, we are lucky to have a growing economy made of many smaller growers that produce a diverse portfolio of commodities. For these small growers, it is up to us – Federal officials in the legislative and Executive branches – to work together to make sure their voices are heard, and their needs met.
I am committed to finding a solution to this issue and I hope that the USTR, USDA, and Department of Commerce will work with my office to ensure Georgia’s farmers, growers, and producers are no longer negatively impacted by Mexico’s unfair trade practices and that we can regain control of the U.S. seasonal and perishable goods market.
I’d like to echo the testimony of Georgia’s stakeholders in requesting that a Section 301 investigation be undertaken so that the Executive Branch can wield its full power in addressing Mexico’s trade practices – including its use of subsidy programs. I stand ready to support such an investigation in any way that I can.
With the country in the early months of USMCA’s implementation, I am glad to see that USTR is continuing its conversations with Georgia farmers and I am hopeful that we can come together and find a solution before Georgia’s growers face more needless economic damage.
Thank you again for having me today and I look forward to working with each of you on this important issue.