Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, calling for federal action to address the continued unfair foreign trade practices being employed by Mexico and others that are causing severe harm to the domestic seasonal produce industry. The letter also calls for a reversal of recent USDA action eliminating juice content regulations on fresh grapefruit imports from Mexico and other countries threatening Florida’s citrus industry, which still must adhere to these standards.
Commissioner Fried shared with Secretary Vilsack a recent report released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) that showed an economic impact of nearly $4 billion due to the expansion of Mexican imports, causing up between 10-20 percent in annual lost sales of Florida seasonal producers due to unfair foreign trade practices.
“Florida farmers and American agriculture is the best in the world, and we are used to competition. But right now, we know Mexico and others are not fighting fair,” Commissioner Fried wrote. “We need federal action to level the playing field for our seasonal producers and citrus farmers who drive our economy, create jobs, and feed our families.”
Commissioner Fried remains an outspoken advocate for the domestic seasonal produce industry, continuously calling for timely and effective relief for farmers in Florida and across the United States since taking office in 2019. Last August, Commissioner Fried testified at a virtual hearing held by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Commerce, presenting a major report, which was also shared today with Secretary Vilsack, showing the economic harm these trade distorting policies are having on Florida farmers and our economy overall.
Following the August 2020 hearing, the same three federal agencies outlined a plan to help the domestic seasonal produce industry, and Commissioner Fried reiterated her commitment to holding the administration accountable for delivering enforceable protections and access to relief for Florida’s farmers. Since that time, the non-partisan U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) launched multiple investigations into the impacts of increased foreign imports on several seasonal crops. Commissioner Fried testified at the USITC hearings on its investigations into blueberries, cucumbers and squash. She also provided comments to the USITC on its strawberry and bell pepper investigation since no formal hearing was held. Commissioner Fried continues to work closely with Florida’s specialty crop growers and members of Congress demanding protections for the domestic seasonal produce industry.