Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. to voice concerns about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s potential negative economic impact on Florida’s produce industry. Excerpts from Commissioner Putnam’s remarks are below:
“I’d like to address how the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement could further impact vital US farm sectors in the absence of measures that can provide effective, near-term relief against unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables.
“As Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I represent the Florida agriculture industry, which generates more than $120 billion in total economic impact, supports more than 1.5 million jobs in Florida, and produces more than 300 agricultural commodities.
“As an industry that depends on fair trade agreements, the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will directly affect the livelihood of Florida’s farmers and ranchers.
“Florida and Mexico produce many of the same agricultural products during the winter months of the year and have overlapping harvests of other commodities in other seasons.
“Imports of agricultural products from Mexico have a disproportionately negative impact on Florida’s producers. Since the turn of the millennium, imports of many agricultural products from Mexico have increased dramatically, proving particularly injurious to Florida Agriculture’s specialty crop sector.
“I believe that many of these commodities are unfairly subsidized and are pouring into the U.S. market in high volumes at prices significantly below the cost of production, resulting in negative repercussions on U.S. producers and causing disproportionate economic injury to Florida’s specialty crop industry.
“Unfortunately, the trade environment created under NAFTA, and the trade environment that will be created under USMCA is anything but a fair and level playing field for Florida’s producers.
“For this reason, I am disappointed that this new agreement has no new protections for Florida fruit and vegetable producers, who for too long have suffered from Mexico’s unfair trade practices – despite our best efforts.
“Our department, Florida’s Congressional delegation and industry groups have fought hard to protect our specialty crop industry since the inception of NAFTA, and we will continue to do so as this new agreement moves forward.
“We’re seeking commitment to work with the Administration toward a viable, effective tool to address unfair trading practices and ensure the future sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the United States.”