Leaders of citrus and other agricultural groups in Florida joined Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in strongly opposing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent decision to allow fresh Chinese citrus imports into the United States.
An April 21 letter that Fried wrote to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated in part, “The dire situation on the ground due to COVID-19 market disruptions is exacerbating the decades-long impact that illegal dumping of Mexican produce has had on domestic producers of seasonal produce … After all that Florida’s industry has overcome and the current challenges facing our farmers, to put our agriculture industry at risk by allowing both the introduction of additional invasive species as well as increased foreign competition is beyond misguided. To kick our agriculture community while they are down, and when our domestic food supply depends on them more than ever, is just plain wrong. I strongly urge the USDA to put the well-being of Florida’s and America’s farmers first and rescind this misguided proposal.”
See Fried’s letter here.
An April 21 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services release about Fried’s letter also included comments from Florida Citrus Mutual and Florida Farm Bureau leaders.
“The Florida citrus industry is already facing a devastating non-native disease called HLB that originated in China and has ravaged our groves over the past decade. So the threat is real,” stated Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks. “We need to take another look at this decision. Add to the fact it will hurt growers by flooding domestic markets with Chinese citrus and it really is a double whammy.”
“Florida Farm Bureau appreciates USDA’s work to keep domestic producers in business during the current COVID-19 crisis, but the importation of Chinese citrus will only compound the mounting challenges faced by our growers,” added Florida Farm Bureau Federation President John Hoblick. “Our citrus industry cannot afford this setback.”
Highlands County Citrus Growers Association Executive Director Ray Royce in an April 17 letter asked Perdue to reverse the decision to allow importation of fresh citrus from China. Royce wrote that the whole U.S. citrus industry is “frankly baffled by this pronouncement and the USDA’s dismissal of industry concerns … Florida’s growers within the past several years have begun, with the scientific and financial assistance of the USDA, to envision a path forward in the presence of HLB, started replanting existing groves and commenced planning for expansion of new grove acreage. This USDA action provides a clear disincentive to expand domestic citrus operations. The result will also facilitate an expansion of the already significant loss of many grower, packer, processor and ancillary business related jobs across our state and other citrus regions.”
See more reactions from California and other Florida citrus industry leaders to the USDA decision on Chinese citrus imports here.