By Karla Arboleda
Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA), spoke to specialty crop growers about efforts toward labor reform and the current draft of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
While meeting with members of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, Joyner talked about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that was introduced on Oct. 30. U.S. House of Representatives members across the country showed bipartisan support for the bill.
“We struggle with getting domestic labor to want to do these jobs so we’re relying on more and more authorized H2-A workers to come into the state,” Joyner said. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to bring in guest workers.”
Joyner believes that Florida agriculture, which is labor intensive, wants to improve the opportunities for both future workers and growing operations.
“We’ve been working through issues with different interest groups,” Joyner said.
Joyner also addressed the FFVA’s stance on how the USMCA could affect Florida’s agriculture industry if the current draft is established.
According to a report from Brittany Lee, executive director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, Mexico blueberry production increased exponentially since 2010. Mexico’s production of 53.8 million pounds in 2019 exceeds Florida’s 22.7 million pounds. “The numbers are dramatic as far as the impacts from Mexican imports to Florida on top of our season,” Joyner said. “It’s interesting … because the majority of the country would be opposed to what Florida is wanting to change.”
Researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Georgia recently published studies outlining the potentially negative impacts that the USMCA could have on the southeastern-most states. Joyner continues to advocate for amendments to the current draft for Florida and Georgia.
“We’ve worked very closely together to make sure our congressional delegation and everyone in Congress understands our very special concern,” Joyner said.
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