From the Harvester, November 1996
A new deal for tomato growers
Industry dumping petition brings Mexican growers to negotiations
On Oct. 11, in a landmark action, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it had reached a suspension agreement with the Mexican tomato industry ending a controversial dumping investigation and giving U.S. growers a chance to compete. The accord, the first of its kind for the U.S. vegetable industry, requires Mexican shippers to observe a minimum price of $5.17 per 25-pound box of tomatoes for five years. Commerce may reopen the dumping probe if Mexican shippers fail to keep their end of the deal.
“This ends a 20- to 30-year battle on this front,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford said. “Our tomato industry will be allowed to get back on its feet.” Crawford and his staff are credited with spearheading the dumping petition, which brought Mexican shippers to the negotiating table.
The agreement was scheduled to become official on or about Oct. 28, following a brief comment period. The Commerce Department is charged with enforcement and periodic review of market conditions to ensure the terms of the accord remain fair to both sides.
Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor said the agreement “will provide strong relief to tomato growers in Florida and other states and help preserve jobs in the industry.” Kantor’s staff was responsible for conducting the suspension agreement talks with Mexican representatives. While FFVA and many U.S. growers regularly provide industry input, Commerce Department officials exclusively conducted talks with the Mexicans.
“This tomato agreement allows Florida’s tomato industry to compete on a level basis with Mexican growers and may serve as a model for future accords on other commodities,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA’s executive vice president. Producers of other vegetables are not covered by the tomato agreement, and may face another season of import surges.
“Our next job is to make sure this suspension agreement works for Florida and other producer states,” added Stuart. “We’ve got to build a unified base of support for future marketing arrangements that ensures a fair trading environment.”