Florida farmers fear they’ll continue to dig themselves further into financial holes because of cheap, subsidized produce coming into the country from Mexico. They don't believe the recently renegotiated trade agreement will change that.
“It’s not the outcome that we’ve worked for," said Lisa Lochridge, of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. "We still have a critical problem here in Florida. Family farms that have operated for generations are desperate to seek relief."
Over the last couple of decades, Alderman Farms in Palm Beach County has seen big changes in the produce market because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which growers believe has allowed cheap, subsidized produce to flood the U.S.
"The trend is more economic growth here in Mexico and less here in Florida," Jimmy Alderman said.
Even organic produce coming from Mexico is cheaper than what Alderman said he produces.
“We’ve seen organic prices cheaper than our cost," Jimmy Alderman said. "We cannot maintain that average and be able to be successful.”
The inability to compete with cheap produce from Mexico has caused some farms to close up, Lochridge said.
"We've seen companies in the last couple of seasons, operated for generations, that announced that they're shutting their doors," she said. "We expect more of that to continue if we don't get some trade reform that we need."
"Every year two or three more family farms going out of business," Alderman said.
Alderman said he was disappointed to hear the renegotiated agreement with Mexico and Canada doesn't include the trade reform for the produce industry he was looking forward to seeing.
"Unfortunately it feels like we’ve been left by the wayside one more time. We’ve almost been a sacrificial lamb," he said.
Lochridge said the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association wants to see more trade reform put into the new trade agreement to better protect Florida growers. There is a bill in Congress that could help accomplish this.