Tomato Suspension Agreement cancellation gets harsh comments from FPAA

This past spring, lawmakers from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, as well as Mexico, attempted to save the Tomato Suspension Agreement when Florida lawmakers began making claims that Mexico was taking an unfair market share in the tomato trade. The mid-1990s agreement focused on keeping the flow of tomatoes streaming from Mexico to the U.S. while keeping floor prices set and importing rules fair on both sides.

In May, the agreement expired. Advocates including Gov. Doug Ducey, Sen. Martha McSally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, and Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) president Lance Jungmeyer, were concerned the action would drive prices up while limiting imports and hurting our ties with our biggest trade partner, Mexico.

While various parties continue to negotiate the issue, leaders of the FPAA outlined various statements by Florida leaders that were either misleading or just plain wrong.

The association claims the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) is guilty of “innuendo and deception,” and of “a pattern of propaganda that is heavy on hyperbole and short of facts, evidence, and truth.”

“For the past three years, the FTE has stayed on message, repeating its claims of Mexico’s unfair trading practices, illegal government subsidies, dumping of tomatoes on the U.S. market, worker mistreatment, and more without backing up their accusations with evidence of any kind,” the statement reads.

The FPAA goes on to point out that Mexico in fact has a more suitable climate for tomatoes than Florida, and grows more flavorful varieties that are more desired by the American consumer.

“Consumers prefer vine-ripened tomatoes and the evidence shows in your grocery stores,” the statement continues. “Look and you will see an assortment of tomatoes on the vine, heirloom tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and shade house grown tomatoes that far outnumber open field grown gassed green tomatoes from Florida. Why? They taste better.”

The letter goes on to state that Florida growers refuse to acknowledge Mexico’s weather being superior and more suitable for tomato production. 

Then there’s the economic side of the issue. According to the group, Mexican tomatoes account for 33,000 U.S. jobs, bringing in $1.4 billion in employee compensation, and $801 million in corporate profits and other returns.

“We strongly agree that U.S. farmers must be protected but the FTE actions go well beyond the intent of the law,” the letter says. “They are attempting to create a seasonal monopoly to force their products onto the American public to make up for their lack of foresight and innovation. In short, they are trying to regulate their way to profitability.”

Nick Esquer

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