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Putnam Says Trade Deal Falls Short for Florida Farmers

October 3, 2018 - 4:30pm
Adam Putnam
Adam Putnam

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam would like the renegotiated and rebranded North American Free Trade Agreement to do more to help the state’s farmers.

And he’s not alone, as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also expressed concerns about the absence of relief for Florida agriculture in the revamped trade pact announced late Sunday.

Putnam, who has long been a critic of the 24-year-old NAFTA, pointed to a need for more work to help Florida farmers who compete with growers in Mexico.

"I am disappointed that this new agreement has no new protections for Florida fruit and vegetable producers, who for too long have suffered from Mexico’s unfair trade practices despite our best efforts,” Putnam said in an email Tuesday.

“Our department, Florida’s congressional delegation and industry groups have fought hard to protect our specialty crop industry since the inception of NAFTA, and we will continue to do so as this new agreement moves forward,” Putnam added.

Putnam has argued for years that pepper and tomato growers and other Florida farmers have struggled against Mexican counterparts who swamp the U.S. market each winter with low-cost produce.

Officials from the U.S., Mexico and Canada announced the new deal late Sunday, after President Donald Trump made revamping NAFTA one of his priorities.

The deal, which needs congressional approval, includes numerous issues, ranging from auto manufacturing and Canadian dairy imports to a dispute-settlement system. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 arguing that NAFTA was poorly negotiated and hurting American workers and manufacturers, has proposed naming the revised pact as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.  

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said in an email Tuesday that “our concerns for Florida fruit and vegetables remain.”

A little more than a year ago, Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., were among Florida lawmakers who urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to push for measures to help the state’s agriculture industry.

Last week, after initial details of a deal with Mexico were announced, Rubio and Nelson introduced legislation intended to help Florida farmer growers bring trade cases against Mexican growers. Under the proposal, farmers could initiate cases with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission if they can prove dumping happens seasonally rather than year-round, according a news release from the senators.

Rubio said in a statement that the bill is aimed at preventing dumping of Mexican winter produce into U.S. markets and is needed because of the absence of “a memorandum of understanding or suspension agreements with the Mexican government covering seasonal and perishable produce imports.”

In April, Putnam sent a letter to Lighthizer urging him to consider Florida’s agriculture industry in negotiating changes to NAFTA.

Putnam told Lighthizer that “family farms in Florida and other states have found no relief from these unfair practices in our current trade laws or the current NAFTA agreement.”

In 2016, as the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida talked about expanding Florida’s role in international trade, Putnam said it was already too late to undo damage to the state’s growers from NAFTA.

"The entire tomato industry has realigned and very much is a shadow of its former self,” Putnam said in November 2016.

At the time, Putnam said the most helpful thing Trump could do would be to enforce protections in the trade agreement that are supposed to keep American producers from being undercut by such things as product dumping and currency manipulation.

"Prior administrations just didn't enforce the letter of the treaty to begin with," Putnam said. "Gosh, just that alone would be a step in the right direction."


Why so nasty? So bitter. So sad. So many people are so much better off now than they have been for many years now. Our President is doing a bang up job no matter how you personally feel. Guess your bank account must have dropped in half or some other catastrophes occurred in your life to make you so bitter. Anyway, the trade deal should improve our farmers lives for the long haul. We are in a wait and see how it pans out mode. Your dire predictions may be based on fake news. No one knows if we'll continue to do well or not because this President is willing to take some short term risks to fix some long overdue problems our farmers have endured for many years. We need to relax and be patient to see what happens over the next few years. If tweaks need to be made in the deal, that can be addressed later. The deal has to be equitable for all involved, not just the US or Canada or Mexico. Compromise is never what everyone wants but hopefully it will benefit everyone to some degree as the changes, if any, are implemented.

What did you expect electing a serial lying scumbag sociopath??...………….You think he actually cares?...…………..Fact is this is just NAFTA that Mexico, Canada play Trump like a fiddle Trump caving in on everything...…………..Same as he did with the Korean trade deal, change a couple of meaning less things and declare victory…………..So Florida Ag gets screwed like everyone else, fitting really...…………...Not to mention Rubio voted to increase the deficit to $1.2T!! by borrowing our children's money to give tax cuts to corporations, the 1%...………….And next yr when the tax cut sugar high, exactly when one shouldn't stimulate the economy as it is peaking as one should be paying down debts, not increase them, the trade wars, is going to give us a recession.-----------Not to mention the Trump gas increase tax, the insurance tax, the inflation tax, the housing tax and the many other things going up in price because of Trump, repub policies...………...Did you not learn anything in 2008?

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