US and Mexico make their cases on produce trade to International Trade Commission

Source: Fresh Plaza

Yesterday, US farmers, government officials and academics told the International Trade Commission that unfair Mexican trade had caused steep losses in domestic vegetable markets. This statement has been countered by representatives of Mexican producers.

While US consumers are eating a lot more cucumbers and squash, US farmers that produce these are selling less as imports from Mexico continue to rise, putting US operations out of business.

But witnesses such as Gerardo Lameda, the top economics official at Mexico’s embassy in Washington, claims that blaming Mexico for the troubles encountered by US farmers is unfair. Mexican production and exports of cucumbers and squash have risen sharply in recent years, but only because US demand went up. Mexican exports, he said, complement US production in states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan by shipping to the US in winter months so that US consumers can buy the vegetables all year.

Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, argued that US farmers have problems far greater than imports from Mexico. Storms, flood, drought, the loss of land to commercial and residential construction and labor shortages are the real problems for US farmers, he told the ITC.

Still, witnesses such as Gene McAvoy, associate director for stakeholder relations at the University of Florida, and Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, rejected those arguments and put the blame squarely on subsidized Mexican farms who sell their cucumbers and squash in the US for less money than it costs US farms to produce the vegetables.