Florida’s agricultural and political leaders had their say Tuesday in describing the negative impact blueberry imports have had on the state’s farmers.
“Agriculture is essential to Florida’s economy. Our No. 1 economy is tourism, obviously, but our No. 2, and it’s very close behind tourism is in fact agriculture. It means so much to Florida that it’s a $131 billion economic impact, providing nearly 1.4 million jobs,” said John Rutherford (FL-04), who testified during a virtual hearing with the U.S. International Trade Commission that blueberry imports are devastating to the state’s economy.
“For years Florida has been impacted by countries taking advantage of our domestic market for produce. Growers in my district and around the state have voiced their concerns by providing data which details the harm caused by these imports. Unfortunately, as a result of these issues, many producers have had to shut down their farms through no fault of their own.”
Nikki Fried, Florida Ag Commissioner, said that the state’s blueberry industry is valued at $62.3 million, but its market share has declined by 38% since 2015. Mexico’s market share has increased by 2,100% since 2009.
Brittany Lee, Executive Director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and Vice President and Farm Manager of Florida Blue Farms in northeast Florida, spoke personally of how imports have impacted her family’s farm.
“In 2010, the year we planted blueberries on my farm here, there was only 1.8 million pounds of Mexican blueberries in the Florida window which we consider March, April and May. Last year there was 51.68 million pounds in that window,” said Lee.
“Mexico has concentrated their production in the mid-March to early April season which is directly on top of Florida. I can tell you that the impact has been absolutely devastating to the Florida industry.”