Rep. Austin Scott Commends USTR Report on Addressing Unfair Trade Practices that Harm Georgia Growers of Seasonal and Perishable Produce

September 2, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, released the below statement upon the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce releasing a report outlining the Trump Administration’s plan to address the threat posed by increased foreign imports to American producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables.

“For too long, countries like Mexico have taken advantage of loopholes in our trade agreements and flooded our domestic markets with cheap government-subsidized produce at prices below the cost of production, causing serious financial injury to American growers. This report from the Administration is an important step forward in rectifying this issue, and I thank President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Perdue, and Secretary Ross for their commitment to addressing foreign trade practices that harm American producers,” said Rep. Austin Scott.

Rep. Scott continued: “While I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this report and working with the Administration to implement these new steps, there is also a burden on American retailers. America’s grocery retailers are posting record profits while American farm revenues are at record lows. Retailers have the responsibility to stop stocking products from countries that engage in unfair trade practices against the American farm family. I also encourage Americans to purchase American-grown farm products whenever possible to support our growers, especially in these unprecedented times.”

In August, Ambassador Lighthizer hosted two virtual field hearings to examine foreign trade policies harming American growers of seasonal and perishable produce, including one with Georgia producers. These hearings were the result of years of requests by Rep. Scott and other members of the Georgia and Florida Congressional Delegations. During the hearings, several Georgia farmers and industry stakeholders highlighted the severity of unfair trade practices and the impact to operations, which played a role in crafting USTR’s new report. Click here for more information on the hearing and to watch the full hearing.

Based on information collected from these hearings, USTR, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce have committed to the following actions to support America’s seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable producers:

  1. USTR will request the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers.
  2. USTR will pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers, and other seasonal and perishable products.
  3. USTR will work with domestic producers to commence an investigation by the International Trade Commission to monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers, which could enable an expedited Section 201 global safeguard investigation later this year.
  4. The Department of Commerce will:
    1. establish an outreach program to connect with Southeastern and other growers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables, to enhance understanding of applicable trade remedy laws and processes; and
    2. establish a formal channel for stakeholders to provide information related to unfair subsidies for foreign producers and exporters of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables, including those in Mexico – building on ongoing efforts to partner with U.S. industry to identify such subsidies.
  5. The Department of Agriculture will:
    1. increase targeted outreach to producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables to maximize the use of existing Department of Agriculture programs; and
    2. develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce; and
    3. initiate conversations with relevant federal partners to better understand the extent to which imports of seasonal and perishable products are utilized to enable criminal activity. 
  6. USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture will establish an interagency working group to monitor seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate as appropriate regarding future investigations and trade actions, and provide technical assistance to Members of Congress in developing legislation on this issue.

This plan does not foreclose additional actions and investigations by the Trump Administration to support producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables. The Administration is dedicated to supporting America’s hardworking farmers across the country and recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing a diverse and homegrown food supply.

Click here to read the full report from USTR, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce.