On Tuesday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, strongly opposing the USDA’s decision to allow the import of fresh citrus from China.
Besides the fact that increasing foreign imports would be harmful to the domestic citrus industry, Fried believes this "misguided policy change" during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious risk to the state's citrus industry, as well as many other crops, according to a news release. This is because of the potential introduction of "devastating invasive pests and diseases" found in China.
Fried's letter reads in part:
“After all that Florida’s industry has overcome and the current challenges facing our farmers, to put our agriculture industry at risk by allowing both the introduction of additional invasive species as well as increased foreign competition is beyond misguided. To kick our agriculture community while they are down, and when our domestic food supply depends on them more than ever, is just plain wrong. I strongly urge the USDA to put the wellbeing of Florida’s and America’s farmers first and rescind this misguided proposal.”
Fried also noted that the timing of the USDA's decision during this pandemic could exacerbate issues that Florida’s agriculture community is already facing.
“The dire situation on the ground due to COVID-19 market disruptions is exacerbating the decades-long impact that illegal dumping of Mexican produce has had on domestic producers of seasonal produce.”
Other Florida agriculture industry leaders have voiced their agreement.