Florida Strawberry Growers Association
Dover, Fla. (August 18, 2020) – U.S. trade officials and federal agencies held the first of two virtual meetings on August 13 with the agriculture industry to hear testimonies on unfair trade practices with Mexico. More than 35 witnesses testified to a hearing committee consisting of representatives from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
As Senator (Marco) Rubio, congressmen, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, economist Dr. Zengfei Guan, and producers from across the state and even the country testified, reoccurring concerns of unfair trade practices, government subsidies and loss of market share came up repeatedly.
“We are not looking for a handout, just a fair chance in the fight,” said Executive Director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Kenneth Parker.
The concern of crisis is of the winter specialty crop market in Florida and now into Georgia and beyond.
“In my 33 years of operating the farm, our greatest challenge has been increased Mexican competition…,” said John Sizemore of Sizemore Farms. Industry members pleaded for a Section 301 to be filed against Mexico to investigate the trade practices.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that was passed and became effective on July 1, 2020, neglected to include seasonal and perishable crops. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made a commitment to the seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable industry in Florida that he would address the issue of unfair trade practices with Mexico; therefore, these hearings are a result of that commitment. A second virtual hearing will take place on Thursday addressing the seasonal and perishable produce industry Georgia. The hearing will be streamed through the USTR website and transcripts will also be available from both hearings.