Southern farmers and lawmakers are once again trying to gain protection from competition from Mexican fruits and vegetables that increasingly cross the border.

U.S. trade officials spent much of Thursday listening to Southern growers and political leaders present a case to the U.S. government to launch an investigation that could result in Section 301 tariffs on blueberries , strawberries, peppers, grapes, lettuce and many other Mexican specialties. cultures.

Thursday’s hearing was primarily for farmers in Florida. A second hearing – conducted virtually in a webinar like Thursday’s – will take place next week for Georgian farmers.

“For 25 years, NAFTA allowed domestic markets to be inundated with cheap Mexican produce, devastating the bottom line and competitive ability of producers of seasonal crops in Florida – and sadly, the ( (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) has not provided a cure, “Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in testimony Thursday.

The USTR, under pressure from lawmakers like Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio, initially fought for a provision in the USMCA that would have made it easier for U.S. fruit and vegetable growers to file anti-dumping claims. and compensatory measures against exporters of Mexican products. The American efforts were abandoned after the categorical refusal of the Mexican negotiators.

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But USTR Robert Lighthizer later promised to respond to claims that Mexico was subsidizing its farmers, allowing them to ship fruit and vegetables to the United States at prices far below what American growers can match.

In January, Lighthizer promised Rubio, fellow Florida GOP Senator Rick Scott, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., A letter, promising to issue a new plan within 60 days of the start of the USMCA “to implement the effective and timely corrective measures necessary to address any trade-distorting policies that may contribute to unfair prices in the US market and harm to US producers of seasonal and perishable products. “

Sal Finocchiaro, owner of Florida-based S&L Bean, pleaded with USTR on Thursday to act quickly as farmers who cannot compete with Mexican produce go bankrupt.

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