Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has added her support to a letter led by Sen. Marco Rubio seeking trade safeguards for seasonal growers.
“Florida’s and the nation’s seasonal crop producers have long suffered from unfair trade practices that threaten their livelihoods and our safe, secure domestic food supply,” Fried said. “It’s past time for common-sense trade solutions that give Florida’s growers a level playing field on which to compete.”
Rubio led a bipartisan letter earlier this week asking U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to work on trade relief. The Florida Republican joined 39 lawmakers from eight states concerned about the unfair trade practices’ impacts on produce farmers.
Signatories on the letter include Florida Sen. Rick Scott, also a Republican. Additionally, 22 of Florida’s 27 House members signed on, led by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, and Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, along with Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott and Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga.
“American growers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables are under unsustainable pressure from growing volumes of unfairly subsidized and/or dumped produce from Mexico, Peru, Chile, and other foreign suppliers,” the letter states. “Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) has called for a solution to this problem for nearly twenty years. Unfortunately for many of our seasonal and perishable sectors, inaction on the issue has led to sharply increasing imports, growing foreign subsidies, race-to-the-bottom labor wage disparities, progressively lower import prices, and escalating harm to our family farms and producing communities. This past year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic for example, imports of perishable fruits and vegetables surged to record levels, seizing larger segments of the market while our growers were forced to forego their harvests and plow under entire fields of viable produce. Our impacted seasonal and perishable sectors are at a crossroads and need urgent relief.”
Tai, a President Joe Biden appointee, was confirmed as Trade Representative by the Senate in March.
The issue of protecting seasonal crops has brought together lawmakers representing agriculture-rich states and districts.
Other Florida signatories include Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Charlie Crist, Ted Deutch, Neal Dunn, Lois Frankel, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, Maria Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daniel Webster and Frederica Wilson. In total, 14 Florida Republicans and all eight Florida Democrats signed onto the letter.
Fried, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Florida, has closely followed trade negotiations and said the agriculture industry in Florida needs consideration.
“I join this bipartisan, bicameral multi-state delegation in urging Ambassador Tai and the Biden Administration to work with Congress and take action to put American farmers first,” she said. “I thank the more than three dozen members of Congress who wrote encouraging this action, led by Senator Rubio and Representatives Diaz-Balart, Soto, and Lawson, and including Senator Rick Scott, Senator Warnock of Georgia, and the majority of Florida’s congressional delegation.”