September 2, 2020
by: Jim Frankowiak
PLANT CITY, Fla. – The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce have released a report outlining the Trump Administration’s plan to address the threat posed by increased foreign imports to American producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA), representing one of the most significant segments impacted by this threat, expressed its appreciation to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “for keeping their word to find a way to bring meaningful trade relief to Florida strawberry growers who have suffered legitimate injury from subsidized imports from Mexico.”
“This Administration has embraced an issue that has historically been ignored,” said FSGA Executive Director Kenneth Parker. “It is abundantly clear that this Administration has a desire to find solutions to help level the playing field for the Florida strawberry industry and other seasonal fruits and vegetable producers.”
The actions outlined in the plan include a request from the USTR to the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers. The USTR will also pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers and other seasonal and perishable products. The USTR will work with domestic producers to commence an investigation by the International Trade Commission to monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers, which could enable an expedited Section 201 global safeguard investigation later this year.
The Department of Commerce will establish an outreach program to connect with southeastern and other growers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables to enhance understanding of applicable trade remedy laws and processes; and establish a formal channel for stakeholders to provide information related to unfair subsidies for foreign producers and exporters of season and perishable fruits and vegetables, including those in Mexico – building on continued efforts to partner with U.S. industry to identify such subsidies.
Under the plan the Department of Agriculture will increase targeted outreach to producers of seasonal perishable fruits and vegetables to maximize the use of existing departmental programs; and develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce, and initiate conversations with relevant federal partners to better understand the extent to which imports of season and perishable products are utilized to enable criminal activity.
The agencies will also establish and interagency working group to monitor seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate an appropriate plan regarding future investigations and trade actions and provide technical assistance to Congress in developing legislation on this issue.
Lastly, this just-released plan does not foreclose additional actions and investigations by the Administration to support producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables.