Commissioner Fried Testifies at USTR Hearing: Unfair Trade Policies Are Devastating Florida Farmers

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Aug 13, 2020

Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Florida  Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried testified at the first of two virtual hearings held by the  Office of the United States Trade Representative  (USTR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding trade distorting policies that are devastating seasonal producers in Florida and across the U.S. With the USMCA now in force, the U.S. Trade Representative  has committed to releasing a plan to address these unfair trade practices, and these virtual hearings allow Florida’s agriculture leaders to provide information on the details of the issue.

“With a $137 billion economic impact, agriculture is Florida’s second-largest industry and first during times of economic downturns like we are currently experiencing due to COVID-19,” stated  Commissioner Nikki Fried. “For 25 years, NAFTA allowed domestic markets to be flooded with cheap produce from Mexico that has devastated Florida seasonal crop growers’ bottom line and ability to compete — and unfortunately, the USMCA failed to provide a remedy.”

Commissioner Fried testified on behalf of Florida farmers, stressing the urgent need for timely and effective remedies to protect U.S. seasonal producers from unfair Mexican trade practices. During her testimony, she referenced a report  produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS),  Putting Florida’s Farmers First: Mexico’s Ag-Exports Impacts on Florida Agriculture which uses data to illustrate the losses Florida seasonal producers have faced due to unfair trade practices.

“When faced with the data, the harm being caused by these trade practices cannot be denied — I implore the Administration to see these figures not only as numbers on a chart, but as an attack on Americans’ livelihoods,” shared  Commissioner Nikki Fried“I’m thankful that the Administration provided the opportunity to hear directly from the farmers, families, and communities that are suffering due to unfair trade practices. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stands ready to assist our federal and industry partners as we move towards long-overdue solutions.”

A full transcript of her remarks is available here. A recording of her testimony can be viewed or downloaded here, and recording of the full hearing can be viewed here.

Context: For 25 years, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowed U.S. markets to be flooded with lower-priced produce from Mexico, making it difficult for U.S. producers to compete due to the Mexican government’s agriculture subsidies and lower labor costs and safety standards. While U.S. seasonal crop producers had been hopeful that these unfair trade practices would be addressed during the USMCA negotiations, the agreement, like its predecessor, left these concerns unaddressed.

Mexico’s growing market share: Last month, Commissioner Fried and FDACS released a report highlighting the up to $3.7 billion in Florida farm losses due to unfair trade from 2000-2019. The report, “ Putting Florida’s Farmers First: Mexico’s Ag-Exports Impacts on Florida Agriculture,”  reveals  Florida seasonal growers’  losses in market share and production as Mexican growers saw increases over the same period. The findings demonstrate that Florida producers continue to suffer a disproportionate economic injury because of the influx of foreign imports with lower prices that are supported by unfair government practices.

The report can be viewed in full at  FDACS.gov/USMCAReport, top findings include:

  • Mexico has expanded their share of the U.S. domestic market by 217 percent since 2000 — while Florida’s market share dropped by 40 percent
  • Mexico’s seasonal crop imports have increased by 551 percent from 2000 to 2019
  • An $11 billion gap exists between Mexican agricultural-exports and Florida’s total agricultural market value
  • Florida producers lost sales of up to 20 percent due to Mexico’s agricultural export expansion since 2000. This accounts for up to:
    • $3.7 billion in total economic losses for Florida’s economy
    • 37,180 lost jobs in Florida
    • $205 millionin lost indirect tax revenue for Florida’s economy
    • $2.2 billion in annual losses of Florida cash receipts to multiple agricultural sectors
    • 20 Florida commodities examined experienced declines in market share, while 13 Mexican commodities increased their share by 100% or more

Background: Since taking office, Commissioner Fried has been a leading voice in opposition to USMCA’s failure to address the dire situation facing Florida’s seasonal crop growers. Commissioner Fried  wrote in The Hill that it “was a bad deal when introduced, and remains a bad deal now,” visited Washington D.C. numerous times to  request Congress include provisions to protect seasonal producers, and  sent a letter to the USTR, raising Florida’s serious concerns. Continuing her advocacy on behalf of growers, the Commissioner was critical when  Vice President Pence visited Florida to promote the policy,  calling the deal “smoke and mirrors from the White House,” and was the nation’s only Agriculture Commissioner to  vote against a resolution supporting the USMCA.

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