Buchanan Defends Fla. Agriculture in NAFTA Talks
WASHINGTON – In a letter sent today to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Congressman Vern Buchanan called for protecting Florida’s critical specialty crop industry in ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
Florida is the second-leading producer of fruits and vegetables in the country. The industry supports nearly 100,000 Florida jobs and has an economic impact of more than $12 billion a year in the Sunshine State.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is currently being renegotiated with Canada and Mexico.
“We are extremely concerned about the unprecedented growth in imports from Mexico as a result of their unfair subsidies and illegal seasonal dumping and the impact it is having domestically,” Buchanan said in the letter, also signed by Rep. Carlos Curbelo. “While we grow the highest quality produce in the world and can compete in the global marketplace, our industry is hurting right now.”
The letter noted that the U.S. has an agricultural trade deficit with Mexico of around $5 billion, much of which is in the fruit and vegetable sector. And because Florida and Mexico share a similar growing season and produce a number of the same specialty crops, Florida producers have been particularly hard hit.
In fact, since the year 2000, Florida has experienced a loss of between one and three billion dollars each year due to increased Mexican imports, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.
“We know a lot of farmers have benefitted greatly from NAFTA, but, as the representative for South Miami-Dade, I’ve seen firsthand the story is different for specialty crop growers,” Curbelo said. “Specialty crops like tomatoes, squash, eggplants, strawberries – pretty much anything that can be handpicked – face a significant disadvantage when it comes to Mexican competition.”
Florida Farm Bureau president John L. Hoblick expressed his support for Buchanan’s efforts:
“Florida’s fruit and vegetable industry has suffered severe untold losses, which are directly attributable to the illegal trade actions of our Mexican counterparts in recent years. I commend Congressmen Buchanan and Curbelo, and the entire Florida delegation, for unabashedly defending our domestic industry in favor of free and fair trade.”
Buchanan and Curbelo are the only two representatives from Florida on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade, taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare and welfare.
Buchanan has been a champion of Suncoast agriculture during his time in Congress. His legislation to help Florida’s beleaguered citrus industry bounce back from crop disease and Hurricane Irma was recently signed into law.
In 2014, Buchanan led bipartisan efforts in Congress to secure an unprecedented $125 million to combat citrus greening as part of the five-year farm bill that President Obama later signed into law. The legislation also authorized the disbursement of up to $125 million in discretionary funding over five years to combat the disease.
Text of the letter below:
April 11, 2018
The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
United States Trade Representative
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
We write to reiterate our strong support for inclusion of measures to protect Florida’s specialty crop industry, address current unfair trade practices and mounting Mexican imports in any final renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
As members of the Florida Congressional Delegation who serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, we are extremely concerned about the unprecedented growth in imports from Mexico as a result of their unfair subsidies and illegal seasonal dumping and the impact it is having domestically. The United States has an agricultural trade deficit with Mexico of around $5 billion, much of which is in the fruit and vegetable sector. Because Florida and Mexico share a similar growing season and produce a number of the same specialty crops, Florida producers have been particularly hard hit. In fact, since the year 2000, Florida has experienced a loss of between one and three billion dollars each year due to increased Mexican imports, according to the FloridaDepartment of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
As the second-leading producer of fruits and vegetables in the country, which supports nearly 100,000 jobs and has an economic impact of more than $12 billion a year, the specialty crop industry is absolutely critical to our home state of Florida. And while we grow the highest quality produce in the world and can compete in the global marketplace, our industry is hurting right now.
That is why any final agreement must allow our fruit and vegetable growers to use seasonal data to seek regional relief in anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases. We need to provide them with the necessary tools to make the case that that Mexico is selling produce at unfairly low prices when certain crops are in season in a particular region.
Furthermore, failure to include such a provision would also be inconsistent with trade objectives clearly outlined by Congress in Trade Promotion Authority,which instructed our trade negotiators to “improve import relief mechanisms to recognize the unique characteristics of perishable and cyclical agriculture; and ensure that import relief mechanisms for perishable and cyclical agriculture are as accessible and timely to growers in the United States.”
We applaud and greatly appreciate your efforts to seek measures consistent with this instruction for our seasonal and perishable crops to date, and urge your steadfast commitment to ensuring these vital unfair trade remedies are included in any final NAFTA agreement.
We respectfully request an update on the current status of negotiations regarding these particular provisions, and appreciate your time and attention to this matter.