Senators Join in Opposition Against Citrus Imports From China

Daniel Cooper Export/Import, Industry News Release

On April 28, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking him to reverse a decision to let five varieties of citrus fruits be imported from China.

The senators’ letter follows an April 24 letter from 17 U.S. representatives from Florida, who made the same request to Perdue.

“In recent years, Florida’s citrus growers have suffered the impacts of hurricanes, unfairly priced imports, and from citrus greening, a disease which originated in China, and spread to the U.S. from imported citrus,” the senators wrote. “Risking the introduction of invasive species and diseases into the U.S. is irresponsible, especially given our knowledge of how citrus greening previously entered our country by imported citrus and is spread by an invasive pest species.”

Florida’s citrus industry has been struggling for more than a decade in large part because of citrus greening, which is fatal to fruit.

Last week, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected democrat, called the policy change “misguided” in a separate letter to Perdue.

“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,” Fried wrote.

She also said the timing of the federal decision, during the coronavirus pandemic, could exacerbate issues facing Florida’s agriculture industry, such as illegal seasonal dumping of Mexican produce in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on April 14 authorized the importation of five types of commercially produced citrus from China: pummelo, Nanfeng honey mandarin, ponkan, sweet orange and Satsuma mandarin. Read more on the decision.

The importation proposal has been in the works since 2014, when the USDA predicted in the Federal Registry “the quantity of oranges imported from China is likely to be relatively small.”

“The majority of China’s fresh orange exports, mostly navel oranges, go mainly to Russia and to neighboring countries in Asia,” the Aug. 28, 2014 Federal Registry rule proposal said.

Source: News Service of Florida