United States International Trade Commission Holds Hearing in Regards to Imported Cucumber and Squash
UNITED STATES - Yesterday morning, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) held a hearing investigating the effects of imported cucumbers and imported squash on the U.S. seasonal cucumber and squash markets.
Throughout the hearing, testimony was provided from both sides of the aisle with regard to several factors, including, but not limited to, recent trade trends, shipping prices, and the effects of imported cucumbers and squash on domestic producers.
To better understand the varying positions, we reached out to several members of the industry who gave their testimony at the hearing.
Dante Galeazzi, President of Texas International Produce Association (TIPA), provided ANUK with an exclusive takeaway after the hearing ended.
"TIPA was very pleased that we not only had the opportunity to participate in the USITC hearing yesterday, but also several of our members were given the opportunity to provide their individual testimonies as well. We heard many diverse and important points in today's meeting, but I think one of the points that came up that really stuck with me was the lack of action by the U.S. Congress anytime in the last two decades to meaningfully address immigration and agricultural foreign laborers. The USITC hearing was very focused on the labor situation, and those comments—in my opinion—spoke volumes," Dante remarked.
In his opening statement, Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, noted that there are a variety of factors impacting Southeast growers, all of which he purports do not place blame on Mexican imports. These include a shortage in domestic workers, weather patterns damaging crops, real estate development across key growing regions such as Florida—where a large portion of cucumber and squash are grown—and consumer preference, where shoppers have evolved to prefer premium produce items. His opening statement can be read in full here.
The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association also issued a statement regarding the hearing and the testimony it and its members provided.
"We commend the International Trade Commission for working to help solve this longstanding and growing threat to the Southeast produce industry. Effective, swift relief is needed to give our Florida produce growers a future and ensure that American families are not dependent on foreign imports for their produce supplies during the winter and spring months of the year," the statement read.
Bret Erickson, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for J&D Produce, also stated his position in a statement sent to ANUK.
“Personally, I hope these seasonality hearings will shed light on the fact that Congress has repeatedly failed American fruit and vegetable producers for more than 20 years," Bret commented. "Ask United Fresh and AWC, we have worked relentlessly on ag labor reforms; brainstorming, negotiating, compromising, letter writing, hosting congressional farm tours, coordinating fly-ins; and yet still today we have nothing to show for it other than a skeleton crew for a domestic workforce, the same bloated overpriced H-2A guest worker program, declining agricultural production in the US, and explosive import growth. It’s not the fault of foreign producers for seizing a viable business opportunity to export to the U.S.; it’s our own policy makers that have been complicit in exporting our fruit and vegetable production to other countries.”
Craig Slate, President and CEO of SunFed, who also presented testimony, remarked the following in an exclusive statement to ANUK.
“Having an adequate supply of high quality cucumbers and squash year-round at affordable prices is essential to helping U.S. consumers live healthier lives,” he explained. “Therefore, as U.S. citizens, we should welcome more fresh produce from all over the world, especially Mexico, and not put trade constraints to hinder supply and increase cost. In no way do tariffs and/or supply restraints from Mexico help increase U.S. consumer consumption of fresh produce. It only deters it. The testimony given today on behalf of the import community detailed the plethora of reasons why it is important to have multiple sources of fresh produce. This has allowed consumption to increase, which gives the consumer access to the finest fruits and vegetables 365 days a year."
The USITC will examine the effect of imports on the domestic seasonal markets of cucumbers and squash in separate but concurrent investigations and produce two separate reports, as it stated in a previous release. These reports should be given to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) no later than December 7, 2021.
As more news regarding imports develops, you can turn to AndNowUKnow to cover the latest, so stay tuned.