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ICYMI: Rubio Makes Case for Trade Petition to Protect Florida Growers
Protect Florida Growers from Mexico’s Plan of Economic “Conquest”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
September 14, 2022
Palm Beach Post (print version)
Across the globe, millions of people face malnutrition and famine due to supply chain disruptions and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. America is largely sheltered from that famine by its domestic food production…. Maintaining that production is essential to our country’s continued strength. Unfortunately, some key parts of America’s domestic food industry have been left to wither on the vine. For inexplicable reasons, the executive branch of our government refuses to protect Florida growers from Mexican trade practices that endanger American agriculture.
Mexico has an explicit, detailed plan to become a “world agri-food power” through a “conquest of external markets.” For over 20 years, that has meant undermining and displacing Florida’s seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable producers—and putting Floridians out of business in the process.
Mexico has subsidized its agriculture industry and exportation infrastructure every step of the way, financing up to 50 percent of the cost of each new agricultural project. Mexican producers also pay workers about one-tenth of what Floridian producers do. The U.S. International Trade Commission confirms that this grants our southern neighbor a “comparative trade advantage.”
The results? Since 2003, the amount of land in Mexico dedicated to the export-oriented fruit and vegetable industry has grown from just 2,000 acres to over 125,000 acres. In the same time period, according to a report by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the amount of Mexican produce on the U.S. market has increased by 596 percent. This “surge” has come at the expense of Florida, whose market share in bell peppers, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, and squash has fallen by 36 percent since 2006 alone.
Mexico’s scheme—which is clearly going well—presents a serious problem to the farmers, workers, and merchants who rely on Florida agriculture to provide for their families. But it’s also a problem for the country as a whole, because Florida has the largest winter- and spring-time fruit and vegetable industry east of the Mississippi River. If Mexico succeeds in its conquest of the U.S. market, it will endanger our food security. What’s more, Mexico will have the power to set high prices at millions of Americans’ expense.
Why won’t the federal government do something about this? I’ve worked with the bipartisan Florida Congressional Delegation to seek relief for Florida growers, but our appeals have always fallen on deaf ears. Things have been no different under the Biden Administration, despite its purported intentions to strengthen America’s agricultural supply chains.
That’s why I’m leading the Florida Delegation in petitioning the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to initiate a Section 301 investigation of fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico. As of September 8, the Biden Administration will have 45 days to accept our petition and use its authority under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to protect Floridians.
If successful, our petition will chart a path for growers across the U.S. who are struggling from similar challenges to secure trade relief. Otherwise, the administration will have to explain to Congress, and the rest of the country, why it’s willing to stand by as American farmers succumb to export targeting.
In an increasingly fragmented global economy, we can’t afford to lose domestic seasonal and perishable food production. Nor can the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who work in agriculture afford to lose their livelihood. The government must act now to protect the Sunshine State from Mexico’s plans of economic conquest.