Republican Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) recently gathered a group of colleagues to pen a letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Robert Lighthizer regarding seasonality of produce in the country. The letter implores the Trump Administration to exclude a seasonality provision in the ongoing negotiations of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The letter to the ambassador comes as trade talks with Mexico and Canada are picking up following Mexico’s own ratification of the USMCA earlier in June. Members of the U.S. Senate and House have been tugging at Lighthizer to leave out seasonality provisions based on their lasting effects on farming and consumers here in the United States, especially in places like Arizona and Texas where the agricultural market reigns supreme.
“Arizona and its citizens benefit greatly from trade with its neighbors, especially in the months where our temperatures prevent growth for fruits and vegetables,” said Congressman David Schweikert. “My colleagues and I are continuing to fight against harmful seasonality provisions. We are working to make sure that a seasonality provision is not included in the final United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), as this would harm U.S. consumers and run counter to our beliefs in supporting free and fair trade. I look forward to helping implement the USMCA agreement that will bring strength and prosperity to our economy, without a seasonality provision.”
The seasonality provision would, in effect, allow countries to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on perishable products such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, grapes using only one season’s-worth of data. What this would possibly do is ignite a back and forth trade war-type chess match between the U.S. and its trade partners that would impact the entire fresh produce industry supply chain and then shuffle on down to the consumer.
“Consumers in the U.S. currently enjoy the lowest food costs in the world, with just 6.4 percent of U.S. income going toward food,” the letter states. “U.S. per capita consumption of fresh vegetables stood at 126.8 pounds per year in 1993, before the implementation of NAFTA. In 2016, U.S. per capita consumption of fresh vegetables had reached 145.1 pounds per year, a 14 percent increase.”
“We applaud this bipartisan coalition for recognizing the value that our industry brings to this nation in terms of jobs and economic impact,” said Fresh Produce Association of the Americas President Lance Jungmeyer in a statement. “Inserting special trade law changes for seasonal produce in the trade agreement would invite our trading partners to revise protections for their industries, and it would result in decreased trade in agriculture across the board.”
The letter was lead by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the Senate, and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) in the House. Other cosigners include Reps. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX) Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Will Hurd (R-TX-23) Andy Biggs (R-AZ-5), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-2), Greg Stanton (D-AZ-9), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7), Randy K. Weber (R-TX-14), Filemon Vela (D-TX-34), TJ Cox (D-CA-21), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Devin Nunes (R-CA-22), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), and Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3).