Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried offered formal comment to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) on two ongoing investigations into imports of strawberries and bell peppers into the American market.
Fried has been joined by seasonal crop growers, industry associations, and Florida’s congressional delegation in calling for an end to unfair trade practices that have harmed Florida’s seasonal produce industry for decades.
An excerpt from Fried’s formal letter says, “While I am writing on behalf of Florida’s seasonal producers and sharing the economic impacts we have measured specific to our state’s industry, the harm being caused by Mexico’s unfair trade practices is not isolated to Florida or the Southeast, nor is it isolated to these two commodities. This was made clear given the diversity of regions and commodities represented in testimony at the August hearings held by the U.S. Trade Representative along with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce regarding trade distorting policies affecting seasonal and perishable products in U.S. commerce.”
In the past decade, Mexico’s share of the U.S. market for strawberries and bell peppers – two of Florida’s signature crops – has increased dramatically, while Florida’s market share of strawberries declined 16.5 percent and bell peppers dropped 30.8 percent.
Earlier last week, Commissioner Fried testified before the USITC in a virtual hearing on an ongoing investigation into imported blueberries; since 2009, Mexico’s U.S. market share for blueberries has skyrocketed 2,100 percent while Florida’s market share has decreased 38 percent since 2015.
In August 2020, Commissioner Fried testified before the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, showing that twenty of Florida’s top commodities have lost U.S. market share since 2000, while Mexico’s market share has increased by at least 100 percent for more than a dozen commodities.
This week’s hearing and ITC investigations into imported blueberries, strawberries and bell peppers, and cucumbers and squash are direct results of that USTR hearing.