Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is pleased farmers and agricultural leaders have a seat at the decision-making table again.
The agreement to have the August hearings that focused on unfair trade practices involving foreign produce and included testimonies from farmers and industry leaders from Florida and Georgia was a “positive step,” he said.
This led to a plan of action, announced on Tuesday by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce. There will be further investigations surrounding certain commodities at the center of the trade dispute Southeast growers have with Mexican imports, specifically blueberries, strawberries and bell peppers.
“The one thing that has to go out over your air waves is the unmatched support from this administration; the president, secretary, Ambassador Lighthizer and others; agriculture is a priority to Donald Trump. Again, are you always going to agree on everything? No you don’t, but I think most people in agriculture are just encouraged to be a part of the conversation; to be a front-burner issue as opposed to the fine print at the end of the credits,” Black said. “That’s where we’ve been for way too long. There’s a commitment by the ambassador, trade representative to step up, to listen. They did.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to stay hitched up, try to look at this agreement and this plan they put forth in a positive way. As I said in my testimony, we want a strong agreement, but we want one that’s enforced. American farmer, the Georgia farmer, their responsibility is as important a part of our homeland security and national defense strategy than anything else that we do. We’ve got to have a healthy agriculture to have a healthy America and a healthy Georgia. Trade’s the lifeblood. Lets just hope these steps wind up being very positive. We’re going to be supportive and keep the communication lines open as we move forward.”
USTR Press Release
According to the USTR press release, the public hearings allowed more than 60 witnesses to testify, in addition to more than 300 written submissions.
As outlined in the plan, the USTR will request the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers. The same 201 investigation could be implemented later this year for strawberries and bell peppers.
The plan also states that the USTR will pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers and other seasonal and perishable products.
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