Feb. 11, 2021 could be a date that lives in infamy for Florida’s vegetable and specialty crop growers. At least that’s the way Mike Joyner views the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC) unanimous verdict regarding blueberry imports.
“As a result of that 5-0 ruling, I would completely agree with you, it was a gut punch for our growers,” said Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA). The five USITC members voted on the Section 201 investigation into serious injury regarding blueberry imports. It deemed that imports of fresh, chilled or frozen blueberries are not a serious injury to the domestic industry.
Joyner worries what the ramifications like that ruling can have on other commodities that Mexico exports.
“One of the biggest concerns we had before the blueberry 201 vote was that if we lose, it’s a green light to unfair imports. We’re seeing that,” Joyner said.
Imports from countries are overflowing markets with various commodities, including strawberries, blueberries, squash and cucumbers.
“I worry that as a country, a decision is going to be made, whether it’s intentional or unintentional, that we’re okay to rely on foreign produce during certain times of the year. I personally think that’s a bad public policy. But if it keeps going like it’s going, that’s what’s going to happen,” Joyner said. “These winter months where Florida feeds the U.S., if it keeps going like it’s going, we’re going to be relying on foreign imports to feed the U.S. I just don’t think that’s good public policy.”
New U.S. Trade Representative
The fight continues for Florida farmers who are hoping Katherine Tai, the new U.S. Trade Representative, will become a much-needed ally.
“We’re going to continue to work with Ambassador Tai. I can tell you that the Florida delegation which has just been so solid on this issue. Senators (Marco) Rubio and (Rick) Scott both interviewed her individually as she was being confirmed. She understands this issue, she knows it,” Joyner said. “She made no commitments but we’re hoping Ambassador Katherine Tai will take this issue on and make it a priority.”
Joyner and Florida farmers will have another chance to voice their concerns during a virtual hearing with the USITC on Thursday, April 8. It will focus on imports of cucumbers and squash on seasonal markets.
“Our growers like Paul Allen have said so many times, it’s a national security issue. They’ll argue every day it’s a national security issue,” Joyner said. “It is a national security issue; food security, national security.”