Polk County – Braswell Wants Florida Farmers to ‘Flood’ D.C. Today

August 3, 2020

By: Jim Frankowiak

BARTOW, Fla. – Florida blueberry farmer Bill Braswell, who is also a member of the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, wants farmers in the Sunshine State to let their congressional representative’s trade relief is needed now.

“Florida’s growers support free trade, but it must be fair trade,” Braswell said in an email to Florida farmers.  “We need trade relief measures now; otherwise the devastation to the Florida produce industry we have experienced during the past two decades under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will only grow worse.  To put it simply, we can’t compete with a country that uses unfair, trade-distorting practices like Mexico has for the past 20 years.  Year of continuing losses have put our specialty crop industry’s survival at risk.

“Mexico’s predatory pricing strategies and surging volumes, coupled with elaborate, ongoing subsidy programs to aid their growers in all aspects of production (infrastructure for protected agriculture, equipment, post-harvest management, genetic resources, irrigation technology and more) have made Mexico the largest exporter of fruit and vegetable produce to the U.S. market during Florida’s winter growing season.

“Our producers are the casualties of this growth in Mexican imports,” said Braswell.  “Year after year, Florida production has fallen in inverse proportion to increases in Mexican volume of produce coming into the United States.  Economic data from the State of Florida paints a stark picture:

  • Mexican fruit and vegetable imports to the United States have increased 551%
  • From 2000 to 2019, the value of Mexican strawberries grew 1,654%.  During the same period, the value of Florida strawberries grew 67%
  • Mexico uses pricing and supply aggressively to attack our market.  In 2015-2019, Florida’s lowest shipping point prices from November through May averaged $14.86 per case.  Mexican peppers coming from Mexico for the eastern U.S. market during the same period averaged $9.21 per case.
  • In 2007, Florida held 31% of the blueberry market and Mexico had zero.  In 2017, Mexico now holds 25% of the market share, while Florida has 16%.  From 2014 to 2018, the value of Mexican blueberry exports grew 132%.  IN the same period, the value of Florida blueberry production fell 27%.

“We call on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to deliver a viable, effective solution and trade remedies to address these unfair trading practices and to ensure the sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the United States,” he said.

“As of today, less than 200 people have responded to the government’s request for comments regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  My guess is with such a small response there will be little further action in D.C.  Please help me change that.

“We need to flood DC today with comments.  Today is the deadline so it can’t be put off,” he said.  Visit: http://regulations.gov/docket?D+USTR-2020-0010.  Click on “comment now” and upload your document.  Comments/letters should be directed to The Honorable Robert Lighthizer, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President, 600 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Braswell said it is vital to note the commenter’s operation, its location and what is grown, as well as the length of time crops have been grown.  He said the comments should also include how Mexican dumping has affected them, their operations and family along with the future outlook for their farm.  Lastly, “If you know someone who has gone out of business, include that and comment.”

Further information and assistance are available by emailing Braswell – wcbraswell@gmail.com.

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