By Clint Thompson
COVID-19 was a challenge of pandemic proportions for farmers this spring. Adding insult to injury were the influx of Mexican produce that undercut American producers trying to sell their own product.
Florida vegetable farmer Sam Accursio has a potential solution.
“The only solution I know is to vote, get the people that are like-minded and want to support our nation in office. That’s all we can do. I don’t have any other solution besides that at the moment. We have to keep lobbying,” Accursio said. “Growers, we’re very unique people. We work 100 hours per week, and that’s our problem. We’re working when all of these problems arise, and we don’t have time to go to Washington and sit down with these politicians. We have to talk to them one by one when they’re in our area coming around to us.”
It was especially tough for Accursio this spring. Like other farmers in Florida, Accursio lost produce when the coronavirus pandemic struck in mid-March. In early April, he voiced frustrations about the impact of Mexican imports were having on American farms. He remains frustrated.
“While we were dumping and stopping harvest, I was monitoring what they were shipping in the way of squash per day. It was 2 to 3 million pounds per day, closer to 2.7 to 3 million pounds per day coming across the Mexican-U.S. border of squashes, while I’m stopping harvest; harvesting and throwing on the ground; harvesting and sending to Farm Share,” Accursio said. “The cooler’s empty and we crank back up again. It was a trying time. Then to see Mexico still importing into our nation just seemed so wrong.”
Things could potentially get worse as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is set to enter into force on July 1.
“While we are in season, we need some sort of protection. Right now they’re in the talking phases again. Hopefully, we’re going to have enough influence to make some changes,” Accursio said.
According to the Florida Farm Bureau, Florida’s specialty crop producers will continue to experience loss of market share due to high volumes of dumped Mexican produce. Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried voiced her concerns, as did U.S. Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue.
Accursio encourages consumers to continue supporting American farmers. He can’t fathom the alternative.
“If you take Florida and California away in the winter, what do you have? You have third-world countries feeding this great nation and I’m not going to eat it. I’m not going to do it,” Accursio said.