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Politics

Putnam: U.S.-Mexico Tomato War Near End

February 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is cautiously celebrating the apparent end of the U.S.-Mexican trade war over tomatoes.

For months, Putnam has been calling on President Obama to help Florida and American tomato farmers by voiding a failed trade agreement that has allowed cheaper produce to be imported from Mexico.

Now an agreement appears by the U.S. Commerce Department that would regulate the price of tomato imports from Mexico.

I am pleased the American tomato farmers' concerns have been substantially addressed by this new agreement, Putnam stated in a release. Trade agreements are only as good as the willingness to enforce them, and when they go unenforced, the American worker loses out.

Putnam added that he will continue to ensure Americas food supply remains a national security priority.

But with the deal a month from completion -- the draft on the agreement open to public comment through Feb. 11 -- the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, which represents companies that import Mexican tomatoes, remains critical, with FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer questioning details of the agreement that could impact the sales prices.

A price increase this high gives the U.S. industry more room to maneuver, it gives them plenty of room to sell at 10 cents (per pound) below that floor price all day and essentially keep Mexico out of the market, Jungmeyer said, according to the Packer.

In July, Putnam urged Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank to accept the tomato industrys request to dump the growers' 2008 agreement to suspend their 1996 request for relief from unfairly traded imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.

By suspending the anti-dumping agreement in 2008 -- a move supported by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services -- the growers anticipated trading partners wouldnt undercut U.S. prices.


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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