Russ Goodman Talks About Impact of Unfair Trade Ahead of Thursday’s Virtual Hearing
A prominent blueberry producer in Southeast Georgia believes the future of the American family farm could hinge on any action taken as a result of the virtual hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Russ Goodman is one of several farmers and industry leaders in Georgia who will testify in a virtual hearing on Thursday with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office. The hearings will provide the U.S. Department of Commerce and Trump Administration an opportunity to hear from growers in Georgia about the urgent need for federal action regarding unfair trade.
“We started growing blueberries in 2000. In 2010, we hear rumblings about (Mexico) and people saying, ‘Mexico’s going to put you guys out of business.’ I heard that kind of stuff. I normally don’t pay a lot of attention to things like that because you hear a lot of generic statements,” said Goodman, a farmer in Cogdell, Georgia. “In 2010, they sent 1.8 million pounds. Last year they shipped in 63 million pounds. I’m fearful that if something isn’t addressed what it means.
“It’s not only with Mexico, which is what these hearings are about, USMCA and Mexico and specifically how that affects us, but my friends in the north in Michigan have been farming blueberries for three and four generations. They’re being affected the same thing with Peru right now.”
The biggest concern with farmers in Georgia and Florida – where hearings were held last week – in competing with Mexican imports is the cost of labor. What American farmers have to pay per hour, Mexican farmers can charge per day. How can American growers compete?
“A third of your costs is going to be labor. They’re down there paying one-tenth of what we’re paying in labor. You take any business on God’s green earth where your competition has a 90% advantage over something that’s a third of your overhead, they’ll eventually put all their competition out of business. The scary thing is, that competition comes in the form of the American family farm,” Goodman said.
He estimates Mexican farmers only have to pay 81 cents per hour as a minimum wage.
“You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to see what’s happening and what it’s going to mean long term. We’ve got a blueprint of what’s happened in the past, the tomato industry in Florida. That’s just going to keep going into other things,” Goodman said. “They’re planting 20,000 acres of pecans a year in Mexico from my understanding. I just think we’ve got to, especially in light of this pandemic, we’ve got to re-evaluate where we’re at as far as food security. What keeps us food secure is the American family farm,” Goodman said.