By Clint Thompson
A Senate hearing held on June 9 allowed one Georgia blueberry producer to discuss the challenge of competing against imports from other countries.
Karla Thompson, representing JET Farms in Camilla, Georgia, testified in a hearing held by the Senate Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade. The discussion highlighted rising imports and their impact on Georgia producers.
“With fresh fruits and vegetables, the market situation is really volatile, just as it is. A lot of us have our prices negotiated with retailers almost daily. It’s really based on supply and demand. In Georgia with blueberries, we used to have times where Georgia berries might be the main supply on the market. We knew that we could maybe make a little bit of a profit during those times to help us weather the dips,” Thompson said. “Well now according to our sales organizations, the price is just staying low because the market is flooded with Mexican imports. With us personally on our farm, when prices get to a certain level, there’s times where we have to decide whether we can even harvest.
“We provide a fair wage and good working conditions to our harvest workers, but that’s obviously costly. There have been times we have lost money in order to harvest because we can’t stand to let good fruit sit there and rot especially when we have neighbors in Georgia that have trouble accessing fresh produce at all.”
U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) chairs the subcommittee and sympathizes with Georgia growers.
“Georgia’s a national leader when it comes to the production of specialty crops like blueberries, peaches and melons. Consistently, fruit and vegetable farmers in Georgia raise concerns about cheaper seasonal produce from countries such as Mexico. According to a 2020 report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service, imports of fresh produce into the U.S. increased by $8.9 billion between 2009 and 2019,” Warnock said.
“Leveling the playing field is critical to farmers in Georgia and across the Southeast and the country for that matter.”