Producers and lawmakers have been questioning the strength of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship in recent months. There has been increasing concern about Mexican trade policies and their impact on U.S. agriculture. Last month a group of agricultural organizations detailed challenges they are encountering in a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Obstacles for potato and dairy exports have been a pressing issue for American producers, along with new organic requirements. Now ag groups have taken trade concerns related to imports of fresh produce to the International Trade Commission (ITC). A group of 30 lawmakers also sent a letter of support for investigating the matter.
“Seasonal cucumber and squash imports from Mexico continue to dramatically impact U.S. markets and threaten the future of domestic farm production of perishable produce,” the letter states. “This Section 332 investigation by the ITC for cucumbers and squash is needed to make a meaningful determination as to the impact of these seasonal imports on our markets.”
The ITC heard from a variety of witnesses during an online hearing on the matter. Figures presented to the commission included a 134 percent increase of Mexico’s market share of imported squash and cucumbers since 2000. Ag groups pointed out that the low cost of production in Mexico allows for an unfair advantage at the expense of American producers. Fresh Produce Association of the Americas President Lance Jungmeyer disagreed that Mexico was at fault, instead pointing to labor shortages and weather issues being responsible for U.S. farmers’ hardships.
Potatoes Continue to Be A Point of Contention
The ITC investigation is taking place amidst another strain on the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship. Market access for U.S. potatoes in Mexico has been a contentious issue for nearly two decades. Full access for U.S. fresh potatoes had been agreed upon. However, a series of legal actions on behalf of Mexican producers have kept that from occurring. U.S. potatoes can currently only be imported within 16 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mexico’s National Supreme Court of Justice is currently handling the case that will ultimately dictate access for American potatoes. The National Potato Council will likely encourage the imposition of tariffs on Mexican avocados if the ruling does not provide open access. Mexican avocados had been granted access to the U.S. market in a previous trade arrangement, in exchange for U.S. potatoes having full access.