With top USDA officials talking about the importance of opening new markets, setting global rules and enforcing our country’s rights, global trade has never been more important for the agriculture industry. “Global Markets: A Produce Perspective,” one of FFVA 2016’s timely issues forums, will feature three experts who will hone in on this important topic from different angles.
Bill Messina has been leading the University of Florida’s initiative to provide objective data on Cuba’s agriculture and aquaculture sectors since 1992. He has provided testimony on the topic to U.S. House and Senate committees and the U.S. International Trade Commission as well as giving briefings to USDA and State Department officials. Messina will talk about potential issues for Florida agriculture that Cuba may present.
“Cuba is a large island with more than 15.5 million acres of arable land, although less than 45 percent of this land is actively farmed as of 2014. In addition, Cuba has a warm tropical climate with no freeze risk, good soils, generally good rainfall patterns (although drought has been a problem for the last several years) and a strong, historical agricultural tradition,” Messina said. “Despite all of these factors, reports from Cuba indicate that they consistently have to import approximately 70 percent of their total food supply at a cost of nearly $2 billion per year.”
Messina said key questions about Cuba include: How can a nation with significant agricultural production potential be so reliant on food imports? What are the prospects for Cuba’s agricultural sector going forward? What will it take for Cuban agriculture to achieve its full potential? What are the reasons for declines in U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba in recent years? And what are the implications of all of these factors for Florida agriculture?
Also participating in the panel discussion will be Dan Richey, president and CEO of Riverfront Packing. Richey is a longtime member of FFVA’s board of directors. He’s also served on the Florida Citrus Commission, including two years as chairman, and is a member of the USDA Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee, a select committee of advisors to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Richey also is a past president of the Florida Citrus Packers and the Indian River Citrus League.
As an issues forum panelist, Richey said, “I plan to focus on some pertinent information I gather at the ATAC committee I serve on in Washington. I plan to talk about how the current administration is seizing the opportunity to make inroads into South America, specifically Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. They see an opportunity to create more stability in the region in light of the current political situation in each of these countries. To do so, I sense a liberalization of trade with these countries as they are agriculture-based economies that wish to market their fruits and vegetables to the United States. We seem to be in the mode of accelerating the permitting process — in some cases I would suggest dangerously — to facilitate the wishes of the leaders of these countries. We are caught in a geopolitical play which could expose agriculture in our state to unnecessary invasive pests and diseases,” he said.
Richey also hopes to discuss the effects of a strong dollar and how it relates to exports, as well as how the European Union’s protective stance limits access to markets to protect its member states, and how this is in conflict with WTO rules.
The third expert joining the panel is Wade Elliott, vice president of marketing and business development for Port Tampa Bay. Elliott has more than 25 years of experience in port marketing, business development and research, working with exporters, importers, ocean carriers, terminal operators and cruise lines. He serves as chairman of the Tampa Foreign Trade Zone and on the board of directors of Tampa Port Ministries Seafarers’ Center and the Tampa Bay International Business Council.
Elliott plans to provide an overview of recent developments in global shipping and international trade. “This will include such topics as the Panama Canal expansion, port infrastructure developments, trends in the ocean carrier sector, market and trade trends, highlighting the implications and opportunities for Florida,” he said.
Join growers, packers, shippers and related industry professionals Sept. 28-30 at FFVA 2016 at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples. In addition to the issues forum on international trade, two other sessions will address genetically modified foods and how science is often pitted against fear-based arguments, and the latest on the 2016 elections and what they mean for the specialty crop industry.
Keynote speaker at the annual Cracker Breakfast will be Mike Allen, best known as a founder of Politico. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is invited to speak at the opening luncheon.
More information about the convention and a link to online registration are posted here.