Florida agriculture is under attack.
Over the years, one of Florida’s most iconic industries has faced devastating threats from hurricanes to citrus greening disease. The livelihoods of thousands of farmers and the families they support have been forever altered – with many businesses being shuttered for good.
As our state grapples with these challenges, we also face fierce headwinds from the southwest: unfair trade practices by Mexico.
Since 2000, Mexico has given Florida agriculture the short end of the stick.
Because Florida and Mexico share a similar growing season and produce a number of the same specialty crops, Florida producers have been particularly hard hit by current unfair trade practices and mounting Mexican imports flooding across our border.
Over the past five to 10 years, the Mexican government has gifted their agriculture sector with illegal subsidies to grow produce destined for U.S. consumers. And Mexican growers have dumped less-than-fair-value products into our markets. As a result, for the last 19 years, Florida has lost between $1 billion to $3 billion annually.
Mexico’s unfair dumping is a direct threat to Florida’s 48,000 farms. Our agricultural sector supports 2.2 million full- and part-time jobs and has an estimated annual impact in the state of over $100 billion.
Unfortunately, since 2000, presidents and congressional leaders from both parties have failed to adequately address the problem.
Florida farmers need to know that we have their back.
As co-chair of the 29-member Florida congressional delegation, leveling the playing field for our farmers is one of my top priorities.
Teaming up with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Tallahassee Congressman Al Lawson, we introduced the bipartisan Defending Domestic Produce Production Act in Congress. The bill would loosen the threshold to allow Florida farmers to petition the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate illegal subsidies and dumping of Mexican fruits and vegetables in the U.S. market.
While we grow the highest quality produce in the world and can compete with anyone in the global marketplace, our industry is struggling against these unfair trade practices. We need to provide them with the necessary tools to fight back.
The legislation I have cosponsored would allow Florida fruit and vegetable growers to more easily combat Mexico’s unfair and illegal trade practices by recognizing that seasonal fruit and vegetable producers are directly harmed by Mexico’s practices in various geographic regions, including Florida growers during the winter months.
The hardworking men and women that produce the oranges and orange juice that millions of Americans consume every day are suffering as Mexico engages in seasonal dumping.
The Mexican government has been fiercely opposed, however, arguing that it would negatively affect their exports to the U.S., their number one destination for agriculture products.
Between our strong bipartisan delegation and my position as the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I remain hopeful that we can address this illegal seasonal dumping.
I will also continue urging the Trump administration and U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to stand with Florida farmers.
Our Mexican counterparts need to understand that we simply seek to level the playing field to a state of free and fair trade that is mutually beneficial.
The Defending Domestic Produce Production Act is a necessary step to restore that parity.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, represents the 16th Congressional District, which is comprised of Manatee County and parts of Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.