Almost a month after testifying before the U.S. International Trade Commission, Florida vegetable farmer Marie Bedner is optimistic about potential change to imports of cucumbers and squash flooding the domestic market.
“I am optimistic. They’re listening to us. The fact that we had these hearings, the one back in August for the bell peppers and this one for the cucumbers and the squash, I am optimistic and hopeful that there will be some kind of relief for us,” Bedner said.
Bedner was one of numerous farmers from Florida and Georgia who testified on April 8 that imports from countries like Mexico are hurting the domestic market.
“I was glad I got to voice my opinion and then also my neighbor Dick Bowman was on the call, too. We were able to get our thoughts out there and especially dispute some of the other facts that were out there, like having hurricane damage that’s affecting our numbers and labor issues and other facts that are not true,” Bedner said. “I was very pleased with that aspect of it.”
Ways to Help
While the USITC is not expected to make a decision until December, Bedner already has ways that the government could help with this escalating problem.
“It needs to be fair. It’s not a fair playing field at this point,” Bedner said. “Two of the (remedies) would be a volume control and price control. Those two triggers need to be put in place.”
Both are factors in how imports are being dumped in the United States.
Large quantities of imported produce, such as peppers, cucumbers or anything else, are brought into the country with no set price. They are imported to New York, for example, and the buyer sets his own price for what they’re willing to pay. Mexico is willing to sell for whatever it can get because it is backed by government subsidies.
“We can’t compete with that. We need a minimum to get our return back on our boxes. We’re just not able to do that. It’s an ongoing problem,” said Bedner, who added that it happens weekly.
The more the problem continues, the more likely Southeast farmers will not be able to compete and be forced to retire prematurely.
“That’s something that we’ve said before that we’re going to be relying on a third-world country for our produce, which is sad when right where we are in Palm Beach County, we were the winter vegetable capital of the world before NAFTA. We have great land here that can grow to provide for all of the U.S,” Bedner said.