U.S. Tomato Growers Indicate Tentative Support for Revised Suspension Agreement Covering Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico Reached by the U.S. Government and Mexican Growers

Feb 03, 2013, 09:23 ET from Florida Tomato Exchange from ,Certified Greenhouse Farmers

MAITLAND, Fla., Feb. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In June 2012, U.S. tomato producers from throughout the United States filed a request to withdraw the 16-year old antidumping petition and have the existing suspension agreement covering fresh tomato exports from Mexico terminated.  Their effort was designed to ensure a fair and transparent market as U.S. law provides.  After extensive consultations with the U.S. Department of Commerce, domestic tomato growers indicated tentative support for the revisions negotiated by the U.S. Government and Mexican growers.  After being briefed on the tentative agreement, the Florida Tomato Exchange and Certified Greenhouse Farmers released the following statement:

Reggie Brown, Executive Vice President of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said, "Today, the U.S. Government initialed an agreement with Mexican growers that they believe will address unfair trade in fresh tomatoes.   The existing suspension agreement had  serious flaws  and injury  was being felt  by U.S. producers and their workers.   We have been honored and humbled by the support we have received from Agricultural Commissioners and Secretaries in a number of states, Members of Congress and representatives of the workers, most importantly the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, in the fight for fair trade."  

Mr. Brown continued, "Mexican growers and their government have tried to protect their interests with tremendous pressure on our government, threats to U.S. producers and a well-funded lobbying and media campaign. The facts, however, were clear and could not be disputed.  Mexican tomatoes were being sold in the U.S. market in rapidly increasing volumes at prices that did not reflect the cost of production.  In technical trade jargon, that's known as "dumping" and is illegal under U.S. and Mexican trade laws and the suspension agreement that Mexican producers had signed with the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The public understands its real impact which has been declining production and employment, the bankruptcy of growers and community devastation."

"Undersecretary Sanchez and his entire team have worked hard to update the suspension agreement to deal with the concerns of domestic producers and to achieve an agreement that more closely follows the statutory mandates. Growers in Florida and across the country appreciate his efforts and those of the Department and others in the Obama Administration.  Hard work remains, but they've consulted closely with us in the days leading up to this tentative agreement.   Domestic growers have been focused on the proper implementation of U.S. law and the need for any agreement to reflect accurate cost data.   In the future, the government will have to affirm the accuracy of Mexican growers' cost of production," said Mr. Brown.

Edward Beckman, President of Certified Greenhouse Farmers, said, "The law entitles our industry to fair conditions of trade in fresh tomatoes. That's been the simple goal of this effort.   In the sixteen years since the first suspension agreement was imposed upon domestic producers, the industry has changed dramatically but the suspension agreement has failed to change with the times as technology and growing methods have changed. The agreement has not even kept up with inflation.  During the negotiations between the Department of Commerce and Mexico and their growers, we identified three essential components to any new agreement to bring about fair trade: pricing, coverage, and enforcement.  Each component had to reflect the reality of today's market:   inflation of almost 250% since the base year in Mexico; the changes within the industry in both the U.S. and Mexico that have taken place over the last sixteen years, including the growing importance of greenhouse tomatoes which have dramatically different growing environments and cost structures; and, the gaming of the system by Mexican exporters that has occurred."

Mr. Beckman, commented,  "We believe that the  Department of Commerce and Mexico have struck  a deal that  meets those three tests, and we're hopeful and optimistic that we'll be able to compete under fair trade conditions.  Much work remains to have the agreement fully and faithfully implemented and continuous monitoring and enforcement will be critical.  We're confident that our government understands the challenges facing the U.S. industry and will work with us in the coming days to achieve its objectives.  The domestic industry will be evaluating administrative opportunities to ensure that, in fact, the statutory requirements are met and continue to be met over time."

"It's important to recognize that since tomato growers first raised concerns about unfair trade with Mexico 16 years ago, the market has changed considerably.  This new suspension agreement recognizes the changes and includes definitions to cover the evolution and diversification of the market.  These provisions will protect consumer interests and promote the further development and diversification of the market while ensuring that growers receive a fair price for those products", said Mr. Beckman.

SOURCE Florida Tomato Exchange; Certified Greenhouse Farmers