USMCA is hurting seasonal produce growers

Farmers are looking for more market access in a global economy, but frustrations continue for produce growers after implementation of one trade agreement.

For most of the agricultural industry, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a win, but for seasonal produce growers it means more competition in the market.

“One of the biggest issues American producers currently face is the challenge of combating dumping of foreign subsidized crops in the U.S. markets, below the cost of production,” Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) said. “Stopping unfair trade practices against farmers, specifically producers of seasonal and perishable crops, is vital to U.S. agricultural independence.”

Protection for U.S. seasonal produce growers was a last minute cut from the USMCA, but Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says that the administration is looking for a solution.

“This has been one of the more frustrating things that we’ve dealt with at USDA. Obviously, we are an export focused organization and trying to build markets across the country,” Perdue said.

For many farmers, the free trade deal comes at a cost.

“Their general opinion is that free trade has always been a bit of a misnomer because it’s only free if your aren’t the one who’s paying, and someone does pay,” Georgia Commissioner of Ag Gary Black said. “They feel they are paying by being the brunt of unfair trade practices, including discrepancies in labor, environmental, and food safety standards.”

Representatives from Florida and Georgia are calling on the U.S. Trade Representative to use Section 301 provisions.

“Section 301, as you know, provides USTR with the means to investigate, respond, and resolve trade issues between domestic and foreign entities that negatively impact on U.S. commerce,” Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) said.

American Farm Bureau Federation has policy on the books saying that a seasonality provision would work for farmers that grow fruits and vegetables. They also support anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases.

AFBF president Zippy Duvall states, “If we don’t fix this problem and it continues to further harm our producers across the country, you will see an erosion of farmer support and trust in trade agreements, and that wouldn’t be good for any of us. That would wouldn’t be good for any commodity, any farm anywhere, or other countries.”

After hearing from produce groups and lawmakers, Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer intends to release a response plan by September 1st.

Florida Ag Commissioner: Unfair Trade Policies Are Devastating the State’s Farmers