Ted Yoho: USMCA Trade Deal Will Help Florida and Improve National Food Security

Many believe the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement‭ (‬USMCA‭) will come up for a vote in Congress before the end of the year.‭ ‬As you may know,‭ ‬USMCA is the new trade deal between the United States,‭ ‬Mexico,‭ ‬and Canada,‭ ‬that would replace the‭ ‬25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement‭ (‬NAFTA‭)‬.‭ ‬President Trump worked to renegotiate NAFTA due to the inequities and unfair trade discrepancies that existed in the agreement across many sectors of the U.S.‭ ‬These imbalances in NAFTA resulted in Americans across the country being laid off,‭ ‬shifts in manufacturing from the U.S.‭ ‬to Mexico,‭ ‬and shifts in much of the seasonal‭ ‬fruit and vegetable production from the U.S.‭ ‬to Mexico.‭

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee,‭ ‬and representing Florida’s Third Congressional District,‭ ‬I have seen the devastating effects NAFTA has had on our agricultural producers‭ ‬who have been denied adequate trade enforcement mechanisms.‭ ‬Fruit and vegetable‭ ‬farmers across the Southeast who grow their produce at the same time as Mexican growers have experienced growing losses every year since NAFTA took effect.‭ ‬According to the University of Florida,‭ “‬concurrent with the increased Mexican imports,‭ ‬production of some fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida has declined.‭ ‬Between‭ ‬2010‭ ‬and‭ ‬2018,‭ ‬the production value of tomatoes,‭ ‬strawberries and bell peppers decreased by‭ ‬58 percent,‭ ‬22 percent and‭ ‬27 percent,‭ ‬respectively.‭”

As an illustration,‭ ‬prior to NAFTA’s enactment,‭ ‬U.S.‭ ‬farmers accounted for nearly‭ ‬65 percent‭ ‬of the nation’s tomato supply and there were over‭ ‬300‭ ‬tomato farmers across the state of Florida.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬25‭ ‬years later,‭ ‬our state has lost over‭ ‬250‭ ‬of its tomato farmers and U.S.‭ ‬tomato producers account for only‭ ‬40 percent‭ ‬of the U.S.‭ ‬tomato supply.‭ ‬Farmers who grow green beans,‭ ‬squash,‭ ‬peppers,‭ ‬lettuce,‭ ‬strawberries blueberries,‭ ‬and other produce have experienced a similar decline in U.S.‭ ‬market share.‭ ‬Let’s be clear‭ – ‬our producers in Florida and across the southeast are not afraid of competition‭; ‬these producers are willing and able to compete with producers around the world.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬foreign producers must price their produce fairly,‭ ‬meaning no unfair subsidies or dumping.‭ ‬This has not been the case under NAFTA.‭

In the‭ ‬‘Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation‭’‬ that was released in November‭ ‬2017‭ ‬by the Office of the United States Trade Representative,‭ ‬the administration recognized the inequities our seasonal and perishable producers face with regards to unfair trade practices employed by other countries.‭ ‬Unfortunately,‭ ‬a meaningful solution to this problem was not included in the agreement that was signed last year.‭ ‬With low and stagnating agricultural commodity prices,‭ ‬and with many of our nation’s farmers struggling to stay in business,‭ ‬their children are making decisions now about whether to continue planting crops or transition to planting homes and condominiums.‭ ‬Our farmers are known for not just feeding America but a large part of the world.‭ ‬These unfair trade practices cannot be overlooked as we consider,‭ ‬and possibly enter into,‭ ‬a new trade agreement that would last for years.‭ ‬I’m concerned that if this issue is not addressed‭ ‬now,‭ ‬there will not be an opportunity to do so for quite some time.‭ ‬As a result,‭ ‬we will continue to see a decline in U.S.‭ ‬market share for U.S.‭ ‬seasonal and perishable produce grown by our farmers.

I commend President Trump and his administration for acting to address the ineffective‭ ‬23-year-old Tomato Suspension Agreement with Mexico.‭ ‬The enforcement measures included in the new agreement will surely protect U.S.‭ ‬tomato producers from unfair trade practices they have endured for the last two decades.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬without strong trade mechanisms between the U.S.‭ ‬and Mexico to safeguard our farmers who produce other seasonal crops,‭ ‬their fate will be that of the tomato producers.‭ ‬Absent proper trade enforcement mechanisms,‭ ‬the future for Florida produce is grim.

I ask President Trump and‭ ‬his trade negotiators to make our nation’s southern farmers strong again as‭ ‬they continue‭ ‬their efforts‭ ‬to‭ ‬strengthen‭ ‬America.‭ ‬I appreciate the tough negotiations the Trump‭ administration has done up-to-now.‭ ‬This seasonal‭ ‬produce issue must be addressed for my state of Florida,‭ ‬and other states that face the same issue‭ ‬before I can support it.‭ ‬The USMCA agreement must be fair and balanced for both countries to be successful.‭ ‬This agreement is about more than just autos,‭ ‬appliances,‭ ‬and furniture.‭ ‬It is about national food security.‭ ‬A nation that does not have food security is not a secure nation.

 

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., was first elected to Congress in 2012.

 

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