US farmers losing out to cheaper Mexican produce

According to experts, the amount of US-grown fruits and vegetables on the domestic market is shrinking because of a surge of cheap Mexican produce. They claim that because of less costly labor and increasing government subsidies, Mexico's fruits and vegetables -- aided by free trade between the two nations -- are flooding the US market and driving down prices.

This does mean, however, that US consumers now have year-round access to low-cost produce at their grocery stores. Without Mexico's supply, economists say, availability would decrease and prices would rise.

American farmers say they cannot compete.
Across the United States, farms are ceasing production or reducing output. The country lost more than 500,000 acres of fruit, vegetable and nut farms between 2007 and 2017, dropping from to 7.8 million to 7.3 million, according to US Department of Agriculture statistics.

"Anything that requires any degree of hand labor, we will soon see disappear from our country," said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.

Tomato fight
Across the nation, the number of acres of harvested tomatoes fell by nearly 25 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to USDA statistics. A lot of this loss happened in Florida.

In 2000, the US market had 20 percent more Florida-grown tomatoes than Mexican-grown, according to researchers at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. By 2016, Mexico's tomatoes outnumbered Florida's by five to one.

The rapid market shift devastated the U.S. tomato industry. Between 2010 and 2018, the production value of Florida tomatoes decreased by nearly 60 percent.

"I've seen family farms, third-generation farms, just stopping and going out of business," Jim Alderman, the owner of Alderman Farms in Boynton Beach, said in 2018. "Some of these guys have even taken the step of sourcing the product from Mexico and repacking it here."

The US tomato industry hasn't gone quietly. Growers have fought hard over the last two decades to level the playing field. In August, they scored what they consider a big win. The United States and Mexico reached an agreement to set price floors for imported tomatoes. The deal also allows the United States to increase tomato inspections.

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