One South Georgia farmer is hoping American consumers will buy more locally grown produce. After all, the future of the American farmer is at stake.
Bill Brim, co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia, implores consumers to truly consider who they’re buying their fruits and vegetables from. Not the retailer but the country of origin the blueberries and cucumbers and squash originated from.
The biggest threat to vegetable and specialty crop producers in the Southeast remains constant imports from Mexico. It’s happening right now with the fall production season underway in Georgia.
“They’re pumping cucumbers in here right now and squash and bringing the markets down to where we can’t compete. We’ve got to do something to make people realize that they need to buy Georgia Grown or American Grown and to heck with the Mexican Grown stuff,” Brim said. “Don’t buy it, just do without it. They’re going to put us out of business if we don’t stop it somehow.
“When you’re dropping $22 to $12 (for squash), you cut your profit to nothing.”
Brim was one of the Georgia producers who testified during a virtual hearing on Aug. 20 with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office. He and other farmers and industry leaders like Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, testified that if action was not taken, Mexican imports will continue to drive down market prices and make it impossible for producers to continue farming.
The USTR responded with a plan to support American producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables. It includes a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers.
The USTR also announced plans to pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico to address industry concerns regarding the imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers and other products.
While it may take some time for any subsequent action to be taken, producers like Brim remain vulnerable to the constant barrage of imports coming in from Mexico.
“When they start pulling all of this stuff from Mexico, these brokers and these people that are doing these for Kroger or Wal-Mart or whoever they are, they’re going to buy the cheapest product that they can get. They’re going to try to make as much money off of it as they can get. It’s just a matter of trying to convince the Krogers and Wal-Marts of the world not to buy from Mexico and buy from us,” Brim said.
“If they don’t, we’re going to be out of business. They’re not going to have any choice for anything else.”