Executive Director’s Letter: One Step Closer to Fair Trade

In August, USTR in conjunction with the USDA and DOC held two public hearings: “Trade-Distorting Policies that may be Affecting Seasonal and Perishable Products in the U.S. Commerce.” 

Several growers and commodity leaders participated by submitting comments or testifying virtually.  As a result of these field hearings, on September 1, 2020, “The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce today released a report outlining the Trump Administration’s plan to address the threat posed by increased foreign imports to American producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables.”

The plan includes a Section 201 for blueberries, which is a global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports have caused serious injury to domestic growers. This Section 201 is a national effort. Every blueberry producing state will have the opportunity to demonstrate the injury caused by increased imports.

This is monumental for the Florida Blueberry industry. The fight is not over until we have influenced real and effective change for our industry, but today we are one step closer toward this goal.

What follows is my testimony during the virtual public hearings.

My name is Brittany Lee. I am the Executive Director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, an organization that represents the hardworking blueberry growers throughout the state that are dedicated to growing fresh, high quality blueberries for consumers. 

Thank you for the opportunity to address how our industry has been affected by Mexico’s unfair trade practices for years, and even more significantly in the last several years.  I am a blueberry grower myself, so this issue directly harms our family farm just as it does the approximately 920 farms that grow blueberries in Florida. 

Florida is the cornerstone of domestic blueberry production. We are the first state to produce blueberries each year, harvesting between March and May. Florida blueberry growers are dedicated to growing a sustainable and ethically sourced superfood for consumers, with a significant impact on Florida’s economy. Our farms sustain over 2,500 full-time jobs each year and generate an economic impact of $295 million. 

However, the massive amounts of Mexican blueberries surging into the U.S. every spring are crippling the Southeast domestic blueberry industry. Florida blueberry growers and growers of other seasonal produce have never had a mechanism to combat Mexico’s unfair trade practices.  As we remain vulnerable and unprotected, Mexico’s U.S. market share continues to increase dramatically, and we continue to suffer.

Recent massive and heavily subsidized plantings in Mexico continue to threaten the livelihood of our Florida producers. From 2009 to 2019, Mexico’s U.S. market share of blueberries increased by 2,111%. The culprit is Mexico’s millions of dollars in government subsidies that create artificially low prices for its produce. To exacerbate the situation, from January to April of this year, while Florida blueberry farms were taking sales losses from U.S. foodservice shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico shipped to the U.S. an additional 1.5 million flats of blueberries, increasing their U.S. market share by 64% in that period.

Florida blueberry growers continue to experience undue hardship as a direct result of Mexico’s unfair trading practices. My family farm is well on its way to being a casualty, and it will eventually be the reason my family business and others are forced out of commercial production.

Most of us have worked our whole life to provide a legacy for our families and a business that can be passed from generation to generation. However, the current climate where Mexican blueberries are being sold significantly below the price that it costs us to grow, pick and pack our blueberries is absolutely crippling our farms and the ability to sustain our business. 

Our industry supports free trade, but it must be fair trade. Our growers simply want an even playing field and an opportunity to continue their family operations, to remain in production agriculture, invigorate the economy, and provide a safe and healthy superfood for our consumers.

On behalf of the blueberry industry, we respectfully urge that the USTR initiates a fair and reasonable solution that will protect the Florida blueberry industry before Mexico completely pushes us out during our limited marketing season.   


Brittany H. Lee

Executive Director

Florida Blueberry Growers Association

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