Two hearings on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office will provide growers from Georgia and Florida the chance to voice their concerns over unfair trade.
However, one economist is skeptical about the potential impact these hearings will have.
Adam Rabinowitz, Associate Professor and Extension Economist at Auburn University, points to the lack of coverage for specialty crop growers in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for his lack of confidence in the upcoming hearings.
“It’s certainly important for the farmers to be able to voice their concerns about some of the trade issues that are at hand. It’s going to be interesting to see I guess, to what extent there is actual impact from that,” Rabinowitz said. “When you talk about some of the challenges with trade in the Southeast, Mexico is a big issue there. The fact that nothing was addressed for this region in the USMCA, I’m not sure what the opportunities will be to resolve some of those outstanding issues.”
The hearings will take place virtually. They will provide the U.S. Department of Commerce and Trump Administration an opportunity to hear from seasonal produce growers on the urgent need for federal action on unfair foreign trade.
Even more so this year, Mexican imports into the U.S. were troubling for growers who were struggling to sell produce during the coronavirus pandemic. Florida farmers Sam Accursio said Mexico imported 2 to 3 million pounds of squash per day while he struggled to find buyers, if any at all. Florida farmer Ryan Atwood said the influx of blueberry imports from Mexico contributed to a sharp decline in market prices this year.
“Certainly, the blueberries are a concern, cucumbers and bellpeppers as well. We’ve seen some data there, and of course, tomatoes, even with the tomato suspension agreement; certainly is highly competitive coming out of Mexico,” Rabinowitz said. “Those I’d say are the commodities we’ve seen evidence of that have been impacted pretty significantly. But some of my hesitation in being optimistic comes from the challenge of why nothing was addressed in USMCA.”
Additional information on USTR field hearing dates, deadlines, and submission instructions can be found in the Federal Register notice.