U.S. CONGRESS – In light of recent uncertainty over the import of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, members of the Arizona Congressional Delegation urged the Trump administration to protect $3 billion in contributions to the American economy.
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, members of the delegation asked the Department of Commerce to continue renegotiation toward a mutually-agreed Tomato Suspension Agreement that addresses U.S. grower concerns.
“We encourage the Administration to continue to craft agricultural trade policy that seeks to strengthen the industry nationally, not one that is calibrated around regional or seasonal interests,” the members wrote. “Therefore, we respectfully request that the Administration develop and maintain a workable suspension agreement on tomatoes from Mexico.”
The action has widespread support across Arizona and from the agriculture industry.
“Should the US proceed with the termination of the Suspension Agreement, all imports of Mexican tomatoes will be subject to a 17.5% duty that must be paid by the Arizona importer prior to the actual shipment of the tomatoes. This will force Arizona tomato distributing companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars just to be able to stay in business,” said Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. “Without a Suspension Agreement, produce warehouses in Southern Arizona will face extreme hardship and potential closure.”
Tomatoes are the single largest commodity imported through Nogales, with over 1.5 billion pounds imported each year, with an estimated value of close to $2 billion.
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as well as U.S. Representatives David Schweikert (R-AZ), Ann Kirkpatrick (R-AZ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Greg Stanton (D-AZ)
The full text of the letter is available for download HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Ross:
We write to you today increasingly concerned over efforts from certain regional interests to curb the import of fresh tomatoes from Mexico. Erecting new barriers to trade in fruits and vegetables risks hurting American consumers and the United States agriculture industry. It also could jeopardize our trading relationship with one of the leading export destinations for American agriculture and affect the USMCA implementation process both here and in Mexico.
Maintaining a healthy two-way bilateral trade relationship with Mexico is essential to the continued growth of the American economy. It is also essential to ensure that U.S. consumers have access to affordable fresh produce, especially in cold-weather months. A recent study finds that tomato imports from Mexico are responsible for over 30,000 U.S. jobs and support a supply chain that generates nearly $3 billion in U.S. GDP.
The U.S. is Mexico’s top agricultural trade partner, with U.S. agriculture exports totaling $18 billion and representing about 70% of Mexico’s agri-food imports. The agriculture sector is vital to the overall two-way trade between our two countries and supports an estimated five million U.S. jobs.
It is for these reasons that we urge the Department of Commerce to continue renegotiation toward a mutually-agreed Tomato Suspension Agreement that addresses U.S. grower concerns. Terminating the agreement without the certainty provided by a revised suspension agreement would create economic uncertainty throughout the supply chain and risk retaliation to our agriculture industry.
We encourage the Administration to continue to craft agricultural trade policy that seeks to strengthen the industry nationally, not one that is calibrated around regional or seasonal interests. Therefore, we respectfully request that the Administration develop and maintain a workable suspension agreement on tomatoes from Mexico.
We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.