Florida Blueberry Farmer: USMCA Not a Good Deal For Vegetable, Specialty Crop Producers

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By Clint Thompson

One of the most vocal critics of Mexican imports into the U.S. is adamant that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will not help or protect vegetable or specialty crop producers.

Blueberries are a popular commodity in the U.S. but also as an import from Mexico.

“No, that’s not a good deal for specialty crops. They didn’t really address our issues at all. That was not a good deal for us,” said Ryan Atwood, blueberry farmer, who lives in Mount Dora, Florida, and is one of the state’s blueberry leaders. He farms 56 acres of blueberries, manages another 350 acres and is part-owner of the largest packing house in the Southeast United States.

USMCA Background

According to the USMCA, the agreement, once it enters into force on July 1, will support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in North America. But critics of the agreement will point to lack of protection for specialty crop farmers who already have to compete against imports of Mexican produce. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue even acknowledged concerns by specialty crop growers.

The idea of fair trade seems more like a fantasy than reality for growers in the Southeast who, not only had to overcome the coronavirus pandemic this year but had to compete against the constant influx of Mexican imports.  

“They don’t have the regulations we have. They don’t have to abide by the same rules. Their labor is definitely cheaper. They pay somebody $12 per day. I’ve got to pay them $12 an hour to get labor. It’s hard to compete with that. It’s real hard to compete with that,” Atwood said.

Domestic Supply of Food

Atwood commented in late April that he was “a fan of having our own domestic supply of food.” Agricultural imports from Mexico may be cheaper, but they’re not American grown. Atwood and Florida vegetable farmer Sam Accursio continue to preach the importance of supporting the American farmer.

“I think it’s a security issue for our country,” Atwood said in late April. “We’ve got to grow our own food. You saw what happened 10 or 12 years ago when we used to import all that oil and then we got our own domestic supply going again. Other countries are going to be able to control you if they control your food supply.”

Accursio added, “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.”

About the Author
Clint Thompson

Clint Thompson

Multimedia Journalist for AgNet Media Inc.