By Clint Thompson
The audience may change but the message remains the same for Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) President Mike Joyner. Imports are taking a toll on Florida’s vegetable and specialty crop producers. The future of his growers’ livelihoods is in jeopardy if immediate action is not taken.
Joyner’s message was shared this week during the annual FFVA Convention in Naples, Florida.
“We continue to see these massive amounts of fruits and vegetables coming out of Mexico into U.S. markets right on top of Florida. They continue to expand and grow and build more greenhouses, government-funded greenhouses. We really need something to slow the volume,” Joyner said. “One of the things we covered today was the wage differential where a Mexican workers make $12 to $15 a day. Our labor is going to make $13, $15, $20 an hour. We’ve got to do something.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Ambassador Katherine Tai that she’ll help to come up with some trade actions that will help us. We’re not asking for anything special, we just want fair trade. What’s going to happen if we don’t is our growers are simply going to go out of business.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released a report less than a month ago outlining the impact Mexican imports have had on Florida seasonal producers.
Florida producers lost an estimated $1.31 billion to $2.63 billion every year due to Mexico’s export expansion. This equates to between 17,870 and 35,741 jobs lost. There was a 580% increase in specialty crop imports from Mexico between 2000 and 2020. The current gap between Mexican imports and Florida’s total Ag value sits at $23.3 billion.
“One of the things we learned through the pandemic is we’ve got to be self-sufficient as much as possible,” Joyner said.