The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) is being asked to investigate imported produce. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to ITC requesting that the agency monitor imports of strawberries and bell peppers. A coalition of Florida agricultural groups had raised concern about the impact that imports were having on the domestic market. More than 300 written statements were submitted on the subject of imported produce. During two days of virtual hearings in August, more than 60 witnesses testified.
“Secretary Perdue, Secretary Ross, and I are fully engaged in this effort,” Lighthizer said in a press release. “We would like to thank all of the elected officials, agricultural leaders, and dozens of farmers who participated in these hearings and helped make this plan a priority.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce, and USTR developed a plan to address the concerns raised by industry members. Lighthizer explained that part of that plan included an investigation in accordance with the Trade Act of 1974. The request is for ITC to monitor imports of strawberries and bell peppers under the perishable agricultural product provisions of the trade act. Lighthizer determined that the request was valid and that imports of strawberries and bell peppers warrant monitoring. A similar request pertaining to blueberry imports had also been made by Lighthizer in October.
Lighthizer is now asking the ITC to look into the imports of fresh or chilled strawberries and bell peppers. “I request that the monitoring and investigations include the collection and analysis of information that would expedite investigations,” the letter states. According to USDA, imports of fresh or frozen strawberries were valued at $1.07 billion in 2019, up 41 percent from the year prior. Imports of fresh peppers increased by 13 last year and were valued at $1.67 billion.