Sen. Marco Rubio may be looking after his fruit and vegetable grower constituents, but once again he is short on facts.
Sen. Marco Rubio and some members of the Florida Congressional delegation continue to parrot the same inflammatory rhetoric as their constituents, but they should take a good look in the mirror if they are blaming Mexico for the woes of Florida’s fruit and vegetable growers.
In an Oct. 6 letter to President Biden, Senator Rubio demanded “immediate action” against Mexican produce imports, repeating baseless claims of “unfair trade” that have never held up.
Meanwhile, ironically, Florida companies continue to prosper and profit because of their business operations involving imported Mexican fresh produce.
It is well known that Texas, Arizona and California represent the three largest importing states of Mexican produce, which is natural considering the land border with Mexico. It is less well known that Florida is the fourth-largest importer of Mexican fruits and vegetables. In 2020, Florida imported more than $726 million dollars of Mexican fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Trade Data (https://usatrade.census.gov/data/Perspective60/View/dispview.aspx.) This level of imports makes Florida the:
- Third-largest importer of Mexican blueberries, behind California and Texas.
- Fifth-largest importer of Mexican tomatoes.
- Sixth-largest importer of Mexican strawberries and watermelons, and
- Seventh-largest importer of Mexican bell peppers.
“Despite a giant body of water between the Florida Peninsula and Mexico, Florida distributors of fresh produce know that certain consumer demands can only be met by vine-ripened tomatoes, colored bell peppers and many other fruit and vegetable items which are imported or purchased by Florida companies, resulting in economic growth for the state,” said Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
“Southeastern growers are sourcing Mexican produce to complement their existing product line because that’s what their retailers and consumers are demanding. With great climate, Mexico helps fill a crucial market window when most domestic American fruit and vegetables cannot be grown in sufficient quantities,” Jungmeyer added.
Like many times before, Sen. Rubio suggests Mexican produce growers are unfairly supported by Mexican subsidies, a falsehood that has been knocked down over and over again. In a case-by-base comparison, according to a recent University of Arizona analysis, since 1995, the U.S. has used up to 41% of its allowable subsidies, while Mexico has averaged just 2%.
Rubio also fails to mention that USDA and state taxpayers support about $30 million in tomato research per year. Oftentimes, Florida and other Southeast growers receive subsidized water, subsidized electricity and preferential property tax treatment on agricultural land.
The University of Florida study that Sen. Rubio cites contains numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations, which were debunked by FPAA’s previous statement, which is here.
Moreover, as observers have noted, the danger in Sen. Rubio’s request for “immediate action” by the Biden Administration is that it risks opening another trade war that would further impair the American economy.