Imported fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico and other nations have increased greatly. Now, well over 50% of fresh fruit and nearly 50% of fresh vegetables American consumers eat come from foreign farms. They pay a fraction of the labor costs and, for the most part, don’t have the same regulations protecting the environment, workers, and food safety.
Berry farmers in Whatcom County have been trying to get federal trade officials to take notice of Mexican importers skirting trade laws. It looks like this administration is going to take a serious look at imported food and take action to support domestic producers of fruits and vegetables. Since about 70% of the nation’s supply of frozen and processed raspberries come from local farms, as well as a substantial percentage of blueberries, this is promising news for local family farmers.
A recent report put together by the United States Trade Representative, Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture outlines a plan to address threats from imported fruits and vegetables.
It seems like the groups are recognizing the importance of U.S. grown fruits and vegetables. The report states:
Perishable fruit and vegetable producers face unique challenges because of the short window of time during which their produce retains the freshness that retailers and consumers demand. Given this narrow window of marketability, American fruit and vegetable producers’ profitability can be devastated when imports of a product surge immediately before or during the domestic growers’ marketing window for that product. This challenge is compounded when imported products are sold to the consumer at lower prices than the domestically grown produce, and particularly so if the import prices are significantly and artificially lower due to unfair trade practices.
The plan aims to support fruit and vegetable farmers in the United States. This plan includes an investigation into the negative impacts of foreign imports on blueberry producers.
The USTR will also work with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture to monitor seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables and coordinate future investigations and trade actions.
The whole report can be read here.