Fair trade pact with Mexico a boon for Manatee County tomato growers

February 9, 2013 

Happier days are here again for Manatee County's tomato growers. The United States and Mexico finally reached a landmark agreement on pricing of the commodity that will allow American growers to compete with the hitherto underpriced imports from south of the border.

Cheap imported Mexican tomatoes account for roughly half of American consumption, estimates indicate. The pricing agreement is expected to go into effect on March 4. This averts a trade war that could have impacted a large number of businesses.

The pact, which sets a minimum wholesale price for imports, could also spur an expansion in Manatee's agriculture industry should former tomato growers return to farm again or new ones seize the opportunity. Bob Spencer, president of West Coast Tomato in Palmetto, estimated the county lost 40 percent of its tomato fields over the past 10 years.

"Our acreage for tomatoes could grow and that would be great to see," Spencer told Herald reporter Richard Dymond this week. "This is a big day for Florida."

A revitalization of Manatee's and Florida's tomato industry would be an unexpected economic boost.

Congratulations to Spencer, who served as one of the leaders in lobbying the U.S. Department of Commerce since last fall to renegotiate the previous poor deal.

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