Quality in Question: Fried Defends State’s Produce During Hearing

Clint Thompson Florida, Top Posts

The quality of Southeast produce was called into question during the U.S. International Trade Commission hearing on squash and cucumbers.

Nikki Fried
Florida Agriculture Commissioner

Industry leaders took exception to the notion that consumers prefer Mexican produce over what’s grown in the United States and that has contributed to the domestic market decline for both commodities. Florida Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried was asked about the quality of her state’s vegetable and specialty crops.

“Of course, I’m going to be a little bit biased here. The state of Florida produces some of the best in the country as far as our agricultural products,” Fried said. “Everything from our cucumbers and squash to our blueberries, strawberries and specialty crops, tomatoes. We are the best in the country.”

What the Opposition Says

Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, claimed that “U.S. farmers not having enough labor.” That contributes to a quality disadvantage for American producers.

“Perishable products such as cucumbers and squash are labor intensive crops, particularly for the harvesting and packing. Without adequate labor, southeast growers are at severe disadvantage in how they grow and pack. Their products result in a distinct quality disadvantage that U.S. retail customers clearly recognize,” Jungmeyer said.

However, Southeast farmers and industry leaders say otherwise. There is no labor shortage, nor do consumers choose Mexican produce because of flavor. Some point to the fact that consumers don’t have an option in stores. They have to buy imported produce.

Others point to the fact that Mexico is dumping produce or bringing vegetables into the United States and selling it at a fraction of the cost of an American farmer’s load.

Those are the reasons Southeast producers point to as why they can’t compete against Mexico.