Trade Pact Will Damage Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Study Predicts

Georgia fruit and vegetable growers say the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement as currently negotiated will damage their industry, and a recent economic analysis confirms their concerns.

The policy brief ‘The Impact of the USMCA on Georgia’s Small Fruit and Vegetable Industries’ was released April 22 from the University of Georgia. Though USMCA might be a positive deal overall for U.S. agricultural interests, the report says the USMCA as written “exposes U.S. fruit and vegetable growers to a high risk of substantial harm through unfair competition from Mexican imports … unless some provisions of the USMCA are renegotiated.”

Presenting several scenarios and potential outcomes if the trade agreement is ratified, the policy brief explores and quantifies the economic damages of Mexican practices left unchecked in the USMCA. In recent years Mexico through government-subsidized programs administered through the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mexico’s equivalent of USDA, has allowed Mexican farmers to greatly expand “the weeks during which their imports compete directly with Georgia fruits and vegetables,” authors of the brief point out.

Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Julian M. Worley, and Sharon P. Kane, economists with the UGA Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, wrote the brief.

They concluded the report by saying that without “any recourse for American farmers to seasonal damage from Mexican government-subsidized production, the economic losses to the Georgia blueberry and vegetable industries will be considerable.”

In a May 2 statement, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association said, “The University of Georgia clearly documents the effect the North American Free Trade Agreement has had on the southeastern fruit and vegetable industry and projects the catastrophic impact USMCA will have, not only on our growers, but also on Georgia’s rural communities without a credible solution. … The conclusions of this study vividly state the economic losses to Georgia’s blueberry and vegetable industries will be considerable.

The association asks that the Trump administration and Congress work in tangent to find solutions to prevent the forecasts outlined in the UGA report.

Predictions presented in the report include:

  • Georgia is on track to lose nearly one billion dollars in annual economic output and over 8,000 jobs.
  • In some rural communities, such as in Clinch and Echols counties in southeast Georgia, the income losses to the county’s economy will be over 40 percent, or economic damage on the scale of the Great Depression.
  • In several other rural communities in the south-central and southwest counties of Appling, Brooks, Colquitt and Decatur, the percentage drop in county incomes is in the range of 2 percent to 5 percent, or equivalent to an economic recession

Source: Brad Haire, Southeast Farm Press

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