South Dade News Leader: South Dade Farmers Remain Critical Factor in NAFTA Renegotiation
By Carlos Curbelo
When people around the country think of South Florida, the things that first come to mind are our beaches, unique culture, and sometimes, for better or for worse, our sports teams. But what many people not from South Florida fail to realize is Miami-Dade County, particularly South Dade, is one of the largest agriculture-producing counties in the state of Florida. Avocados, mangos, tomatoes, and many other specialty crops are grown here year-round because of our favorable climate.
Overall, NAFTA is an important part of U.S. trade policy. Across the country, NAFTA has created jobs, increased economic growth, and increased trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada. American farmers from all across the country have benefitted greatly from NAFTA, however, the story is a little different in South Dade.
During my time with these farmers – both in the fields and during meetings – I have heard about the many issues they are concerned about, including immigration and tax reform. But NAFTA, and American trade policy, always figures most prominently. Specialty and seasonal crops like tomatoes, squash, eggplants, strawberries – pretty much anything that can be handpicked – face a significant disadvantage when it comes to Mexican competition. With Mexico’s climate being like South Florida’s, they are able to grow similar products while facing lower taxes, less regulations, and weaker labor standards. American specialty farmers in communities like South Dade are left at a significant disadvantage to compete and this is simply unfair.
During a Ways and Means Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer earlier this year, I advocated for an even playing field for South Dade farmers during the renegotiation of NAFTA. I discussed with Ambassador Lighthizer the Administration’s plans to fight for South Dade farmers, who provide valuable specialty crops for the U.S. and face unfair competition from farmers in Mexico. I have and continue to raise this issue as NAFTA negotiations proceed.
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