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Spano Delivers Major Win for FL-15 Growers

Press Release

Date: Sept. 8, 2020
Location: Lakeland, FL

U.S. Representative Ross Spano (FL-15) released the following statement after closely reviewing the report on "Seasonal and Perishable Products in U.S. Commerce' released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The report came after Spano secured a field hearing last month to ensure FL-15 growers had the opportunity to testify directly with top Trump Administration officials about their experience with product dumping, specifically from Mexico.

"Since I was first sworn into Congress, I have worked hard to establish fair trade practices for Plant City and all Florida growers. This pandemic has reminded us that we cannot take our growers for granted, and we cannot allow our food chain to rely on foreign producers. I was proud to testify on behalf of our community last month, and I look forward to working with the Trump Administration on the trade discussions with Mexico," said Spano. "For our strawberry, blueberry and other seasonal products growers, their crop is not just a product; it's their history, their livelihoods and their passion. I will continue fighting on their behalf."

The report took into account the testimony of Rep. Spano, local growers and agricultural associations. It focused on Mexico's heavy subsidizing of their fruit and vegetable sector, leading to an excessive amount of "dumping' of fruits and vegetables into the U.S. market below the cost of production. This unfair practice makes it very difficult for U.S. growers to remain competitive.

As a result of the hearing and the testimony provided, the action items include:

1. USTR will request the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers;
2. USTR will pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers, and other seasonal and perishable products;
3. USTR will work with domestic producers to commence an investigation by the ITC to monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers, which could enable an expedited Section 201 global safeguard investigation later this year;
4. The Department of Commerce will establish an outreach program to advise seasonal and perishable growers on potential trade remedies and establish a formal channel for stakeholders to provide information related to unfair subsidies;
5. USDA will increase targeted outreach to seasonal and perishable producers to maximize the use of existing USDA programs, will develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce, and will initiate conversations with relevant federal partners to better understand the extent to which imports of seasonal and perishable products are utilized to enable criminal activity;
6. USTR, Commerce, and USDA will establish an interagency seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable working group.

"Congressman Spano has been a tremendous advocate for the strawberry growers in Florida. We are most grateful for his passionate leadership in the effort to find solutions to the ongoing unfair trade practices affecting the seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable growers," said Mr. Kenneth Parker, Executive Director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, adding, "This Administration has embraced an issue that has historically been ignored. It is abundantly clear that this Administration has a desire to find solutions to help level the playing field for the Florida strawberry industry and other seasonal fruit and vegetables."

"The Administration's plan launches the first steps needed to remedy the harm to our industry caused by unfair trading practices," said Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association President Mike Joyner. "Representative Ross Spano has remained in strong support of this issue from the beginning, and we deeply appreciate his continued leadership in working toward trade solutions that remedy this significant threat to Florida specialty crop agriculture."

"This joint agency effort being led by the U.S. Trade Representative is a promising development for Florida farmers," claimed Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick. "Our congressional delegation, Rep. Spano included, played a crucial role in securing this deal. The next 90 days now presents a great opportunity to finally deliver a fair remedy for our producers."

Since arriving in Congress, Spano has been leading on this trade issue given his representation of Eastern Hillsborough which includes Plant City, the "Winter Strawberry Capital of the World'.