It’s a disheartening scenario but one that farmers face every day due to rising imports from Mexico.
“Every morning I start my day by spending hours on the phone with produce buyers across the country, trying to sell my product. I get the same answer, ‘No, we don’t need any,’ they would say,” said Georgia farmer Sam Watson. “At least they’re honest, they tell me they can get it cheaper in Mexico. Maybe try us next week.”
For some growers, they’re running out of weeks.
Watson, along with other producers in Georgia and Florida, testified in a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing on Thursday about the impact that imports of cucumbers and squash are having on the domestic industry. One of Watson’s main points of emphasis is that the American consumers are not being offered any choices anymore. Grocery stores are becoming more and more reliant on supplying foreign produce.
“What’s interesting is the American consumer is still paying the same price at the grocery store. I firmly believe that if American consumers were given a choice between U.S. grown and imported produce, they would choose to buy American. Problem is they have no choice anymore,” Watson said. “We cannot become a country that’s dependent on others for our food supply. Watch all the farmers go under and that is exactly what will happen.”
Cheap labor, low input costs, subsidization by the Mexican government and less regulatory environment contribute to a rise in imports.
“When you combine all of these advantages, I find it hard to believe that anyone can say that the American farmers participate in fair trade,” Watson said. “We’re not saying we want to stop the importation of fresh fruits and vegetables into this country. We just want protections and safeguards put into place to provide for fair trade.”