As negotiations are underway on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the concerns of the Florida blueberry growers, and of all Florida farmers, should have heavy weight and prominence in the discussions. Issues that are top-of-mind for U.S. farmers include competition and labor, particularly when it comes to imports from Mexico.
Letters from Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam as well as Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio (see links below) are urging negotiators to help the Florida agriculture industry as produce imports from Mexico continue to increase and undercut American agriculture. Not only are the blueberries and other fruits from Mexico sold cheaper than domestic produce because production costs are less due to poorly paid labor, but regulations are less stringent in Mexico, which could mean exported products are potentially more hazardous to consumer health.
Florida growers are calling for changes, including quotas on Mexican imports, alignment of Mexico’s food safety and environmental regulations with those of the U.S. farming industry, and increased wages in Mexico, to help level the playing field. Mexico’s government has so far rejected these ideas.
Also in the fight to help Florida farmers are the Florida and Georgia Blueberry Growers Associations. In a joint letter to their congressmen, both organizations cite growth of the blueberry industry in their states over the last few years; however, Mexico has experienced far greater growth with less regulation giving an unfair advantage.
In 2015, the Florida and Georgia blueberry industries produced 108 million pounds of blueberries. Year-to-date in 2018, Mexico has imported 43.5 million pounds of fresh blueberries while Florida and Georgia produced half of that. Our growers are unable to compete with the large volume of lower-priced fruit. Find out even more about the recent harvest season for Florida blueberry growers in the Blueberry Roundup in this edition of Central Florida Ag News.
As farmers and ranchers alike continue to fight issues that threaten the U.S. family farming tradition, the team at AgAmerica Lending is here to help those same farmers and ranchers find lending solutions to keep their agribusinesses thriving.
FOR FURTHER READING
Letters from Adam Putnam: https://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/79791/2331630/Lighthizer_04052018.pdf
Letters from Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson: https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/29f2b682-e9f4-4b86-8b8f-4bf0d788a42d/0007C628F0477A12AC213A4266F71074.20170831-ltr-to-lighthizer-re-nafta-fix-for-seasonal-fruits-and-veggies.pdf
This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending.
BIO: Patrick Spinosa, a Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up on a fifth-generation Florida citrus and cattle operation. He believes that experience and knowledge to be invaluable as he helps secure the financial future of our nation’s farmers and ranchers. For more information about Patrick and the AgAmerica team, call 844-238-5312 or visit AgAmerica.com.