FLORIDA – Three members of the Florida delegation–Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat U.S. Rep. Al Lawson–brought back a bill to protect specialty crop growers from competition from Mexico.
Back in October, Rubio, Lawson, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and then U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., unveiled the “Agricultural Trade Improvement Act” which would adjust the Tariff Act of 1930 to “allow American specialty crop growers to request the imposition of antidumping or countervailing duties.” On Thursday, Rubio, Buchanan and Lawson brought out the “Defending Domestic Produce Production Act.” a similar proposal which would ease certain thresholds 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.”
“Current law requires petitioners to demonstrate harm as measured from a nationwide and year-round perspective,” Buchanan’s office noted about the new proposal. “This bill would acknowledge the unique circumstances of seasonal fruit and vegetable producers who are directly harmed by Mexico’s practices in various geographic regions during different seasons, including Florida growers during the winter months.”
When Republicans controlled the House, Buchanan sat on the House Ways and Means Committee, a role he is expected to continue in the new Democrat controlled Congress which began on Thursday. The Ways and Means Committee oversees trade policy.
“Our beleaguered growers continue to be harmed by Mexico’s unfair subsidies and illegal seasonal dumping,” Buchanan said. “This legislation will level the playing field for a vital industry to Florida’s economy.”
Lawson sits on the House Agriculture Committee and he stressed how Mexico was undercutting Florida farmers.
“Mexico’s dumping into our nation’s agriculture market is problematic, and below-cost produce has put Florida’s farmers at a disadvantage. This issue is crippling Florida’s agriculture industry, and the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act will work to protect Florida’s farmers,” Lawson said.
“We must do all we can to ensure a level playing field for Florida’s fruit and vegetable growers,” Rubio said. “Absent any effective agreement with the Mexican government covering seasonal and perishable produce imports, I’m proud to support this bill to increase opportunities for Florida growers to successfully seek relief from the illegal dumping of Mexican winter produce into our domestic markets.”
Almost 100,000 residents of the Sunshine State work in agriculture, adding more than $12 billion a year to Florida’s economy. Since 2000, agriculture products imported from Mexico have cost Florida between $1-$3 billion.