GFVGA warns of potential damage to Southeast produce under USMCA
The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) has filed comments with the International Trade Commission regarding the damage the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has done to Georgia's produce industry. Speaking on behalf of GFVGA, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black outlined the unprecedented growth of Mexico imports into the United States during a Nov. 15 hearing in Washington, D.C., according to a GFVGA press release.
“Based on the current level of Mexican fruit and vegetable imports and the potential for additional exponential unrestrained growth of Mexican imports if the new USMCA Agreement is approved, it will be tantamount to distributing U.S. government printed ‘going out of business’ signs across a substantial part of rural Georgia and the Southeast,” Black said. “Market windows continue to shrink for our producers while produce streams across our southern border arriving from a country known for an inconsistent regulatory environment.”
The hearing was being held for the International Trade Commission to gather information on the likely impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) if approved by Congress. This agreement will replace the current NAFTA agreement.
GFVGA has strongly opposed USMCA as it will cause further harm to Georgia and southeastern growers in absence of any measures that can provide effective near-term relief against unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables. Prehearing testimony filed by GFVGA outlined the surge in US imports of unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables that have devastated markets and is economically destroying Georgia growers.
Black said Southeastern growers have no recourse to stop Mexico from dumping unfairly traded produce into U.S. markets, the value of Mexican tomato imports have grown from $552 million in 2002 to $1.842 billion in 2017, a 233 percent increase; bell pepper imports have tripled – 339 million pounds in 2000 to 909 million pounds in 2017, a 168 percent increase; and blueberry imports have grown from 1 million pounds in 2007 to 48 million pounds in 2017, a 1,619 percent increase.
In the pre-hearing filing, which can be viewed in its entirety at http://bit.ly/GFVGAtradecomments, GFVGA pointed out that Mexico’s extraordinary growth in fruit and vegetable shipments to the U.S. has been driven by unfair subsidies, sales prices significantly below costs of production, and extremely low labor costs. The government of Mexico has steadily expanded fruit and vegetable support payments. The GFVGA noted that Southeastern growers have no recourse to file anti-dumping violations against Mexico or growers in Mexico.
Black asked the ITC commissioners to include these concerns in their report to Congress.
“This is a critical issue to the livelihood of GFVGA and our membership,” said GFVGA President Mike Bruorton. “Farm operations in Florida are already closing due to NAFTA unfair trade. Georgia farms will be next. GFVGA will continue to express our objection to this agreement if an administrative solution to the unfair trade practices is not included in the final agreement.”
Growers wishing to file comments with the ITC concerning the United States Mexico Canada Agreement can find instructions on the GFVGA web site (https://www.gfvga.org/) or contact the GFVGA office at 706-845-8200.