Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black traveled to Washington, DC last week to testify on behalf of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) regarding the damage NAFTA has done to Georgia’s produce industry. The hearing was held for the International Trade Commission to gather information on the likely impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) if approved by Congress. This agreement would replace the current NAFTA agreement.
“Market windows continue to shrink for our producers while produce streams across our southern border arriving from a country known for an inconsistent regulatory environment,” said Black. “Based on the current level of Mexican fruit and vegetable imports and the potential for additional exponential unrestrained growth of Mexican imports if the new USMCA Agreement is approved, it will be tantamount to distributing U.S. government printed ‘going out of business’ signs across a substantial part of rural Georgia and the Southeast.”
GFVGA has strongly opposed USMCA, stating it will cause further harm to Georgia and southeastern growers in the absence of any measures that can provide effective relief against unfairly traded Mexican fruits and vegetables. In pre-hearing filings, GFVGA points out Mexico’s extraordinary growth in fruit and vegetable shipments to the U.S. has been driven not by ordinary market forces, but unfair subsidies, sales prices significantly below costs of production, and extremely low labor costs. The Government of Mexico has steadily expanded fruit and vegetable support payments. Unfortunately, Southeastern growers have no recourse to file ‘anti-dumping’ violations against Mexico or growers in Mexico.
Commissioner Black used the upcoming SEC Championship game as a comparison, outlining the playing field, regulation football, and rules governing recruiting, scholarship and practice hours were the same for both teams.
“Unfortunately, equal rules of competition do not exist with the USMCA agreement. There is no opportunity for a referee to throw a yellow flag when a violation occurs. Our southeastern produce growers have no NCAA to which to file a suit when product is dumped in the US at below production costs, said Black. “Our growers are not playing for a conference trophy; they are on the playing field of life working for the survival of their family farm.”