Find out why many Florida growers are calling for NAFTA renegotiations
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton and went into effect on January 1, 1994, was supposed to boost the U.S. economy and benefit citizens. In reality, it seems the agreement has had a negative impact on many of Florida’s farmers, including those who grow tomatoes.
NAFTA, a treaty between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., is the world’s largest free trade agreement. In short, the three countries agreed to remove trade barriers, and supporters believed this would enhance all three economies. In some ways, it has – particularly in the Grain Belt of the U.S., where exports of crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat have more than quadrupled since 1994 – however, Florida’s experience has been different.
In the Sunshine State, many fruit and vegetable farmers have gone bankrupt or are struggling to make ends meet because the U.S. is purchasing a significant amount of produce from Mexico due to cheaper prices. According to government data, Mexican imports have had a significant impact on Florida markets. Tomato imports have quadrupled to 3.57 billion pounds, and strawberry imports have risen six-fold to 568 million pounds since NAFTA was created. On the other hand, there has been a steady decline in both the acreage and production value of Florida crops such as bell peppers, tomatoes, squash, and eggplant since 1994, effectively putting farmers out of business.
Florida Farmers Are Pushing for New Trade Deal
NAFTA renegotiations are currently taking place, with President Donald Trump saying the agreement “has fundamentally failed many Americans and needs major improvements.” Many Florida farmers are pushing for a new trade deal to include quotas on Mexican imports, higher wages for Mexican workers, and other stipulations, which would enable them to compete with Mexico’s prices.
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