Carlos Curbelo, Al Lawson Look to Protect Florida Agriculture With Trade Bill

Florida Agriculture needs to be protected and lawmakers are helping

While the Trump administration has renegotiated NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, two members of the Florida delegation are looking to protect specialty growers in the Sunshine State.

This week, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., brought out the  “Agricultural Trade Improvement Act” which adjusts the Tariff Act of 1930 to “allow American specialty crop growers to request the imposition of antidumping or countervailing duties.”

“Under current law, a trade remedy petition requires the support of either 25 percent of the domestic industry that produces a similar product or at least 50 percent of the support of all producers of a domestic like product that expressed a position,” Curbelo’s office noted. “This legislation would have the equal authority of a seasonality/perishable provision in NAFTA that Curbelo has been encouraging the Administration to include in the final deal. If the bill becomes law, specialty crop growers would be better prepared to take on Mexico’s unfair and opaque trade practices.”

On Tuesday, Curbelo explained why he had brought out the proposal.

“Free trade and amicable partnerships with our neighbors have been a cornerstone of the American economy for decades,” Curbelo said. “While recent renegotiations of NAFTA have not produced positive results for specialty crop growers in South Florida, we must do everything possible to provide them with the tools and protections they need to compete in a fair way. This legislation allows our South Florida growers to sell their specialty crops at fair and competitive prices in our domestic market, and protects them from unfair trade practices.”

“Trade is important to our global economy and we must examine each trade agreement carefully to protect our domestic economy,” said Lawson. “I represent rural parts of North Florida, and in my district and much of Florida, we have a serious issue with Mexico’s dumping into our country’s agriculture market. This problem of dumping is with both specialty crops and sugar, causing some Florida farmers to go out of business. This below-cost produce is crippling Florida’s agriculture industry. Now is the time to address these unfair trading practices and protect our nation’s farmers.”

Curbelo’s office noted that Florida’s agriculture industry–which employs more than 100,000 residents of the Sunshine State and adds more than $12 billion to its economy–was facing serious competition from Mexico.

“In coordination with local stakeholders, Curbelo has supported proposals to fight against the overcapacity of cheaper, less regulated produce from other countries by making it easier for specialty crop producers to prove they are being harmed by these imports. The agriculture industry in Florida is responsible for over 100,000 jobs in the Sunshine State and accounts for $12 billion of economic output each year. Florida and Mexico share a similar growing season, with Mexico producing many of the same specialty crops by utilizing government subsidies and without the environment and labor standards our Florida producers adhere to,” Curbelo’s office noted.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., is also cosponsoring the bill which was sent to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.