Two farmers. Two states. One message: The government needs to do more to support the American farmer.
In an era of increasing costs and imports that continue to flood the marketplace, more and more farmers express concern about the decreasing role American farms have in feeding our country.
“Florida specialty crops is really getting the raw end of the deal here. There are people that are making lots of money off exporting. It’s not us,” said Florida strawberry producer Dustin Grooms. “Our berries are meant to be eaten fresh right here locally and around the U.S. We can’t compete with (Mexico’s) labor. That’s one of the main things is their labor. We just can not compete with their low prices. They know that. Every time it seems that we’re starting to get somewhere with the government, we take one step forward and about 10 steps backwards. It’s a losing battle.”
Labor is at the forefront of this battle and one that Mexico is winning. It was established during the USITC hearing on cucumbers and squash that labor rates in Mexico were just shy of $12 per day; which is comparable or even less than what some American farmers have to pay for workers per hour.
“I just don’t understand how in America we expect the farmer to grow things under certain environmental regulations and labor regulations and that comes with a cost. If you’re going to regulate the American farmer then you’ve got to protect them against countries that don’t have similar regulations,” said Georgia blueberry farmer Russ Goodman. “If nothing’s done about it, and we’re already starting to feel the repercussions in rural communities across the country, it’s just going to get worse.”
Goodman is especially frustrated about the report that says the Biden Administration plans to manage the immigration crisis by asking private U.S. companies to invest in Mexico and Central America.
“I hope at some point in time our government will recognize it’s a national security issue,” Goodman said. “If you take anybody that has a 90% advantage over something that is 40% of their costs of doing business, they’re going to put their competitor out of business. The sad thing is that competition comes in the form of the American family farm. I just don’t know what the future holds. It’s absolutely amazing to me that our country is not trying to do something to protect farmers.”
Food security and food awareness need to be heightened in this country. Consumers need to be made aware of how and where they get their food.
“We need the support of the government. We also need the support of the American people to buy our products and not foreign imports,” Grooms said. “That’s what it’s going to take, a movement.”