The USMCA trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada went into effect in July. But growers in the south-eastern produce industry say they did not have their concerns met in that agreement. Therefore, the federal government promised to release an alternative plan to help the industry within 60 days of the USMCA’s implementation date, or Sept. 1.
Growers like Russ Goodman said help cannot come soon enough. Goodman, a seventh-generation south Georgia farmer in Cogdell, and his family started planting blueberries in 2000. When they first planted, he said, blueberries were selling for about $8 a pound. Ten years ago, prices started dropping to $6.50 a pound.
Competition from Mexico
The growers say they simply can’t match the price of the competition, blueberries coming from Mexico, because of the labor and environmental regulations American farmers have to abide by.
According to an article on marketplace.org¸ the minimum hourly wage for the foreign H-2A workers they have to bring in to cover their labor needs is about $12 per hour. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, estimated in 2018 that the average pay for Mexican workers was $16 per day.
Last year, agriculture economists at the University of Georgia predicted the state is “on track to lose nearly one billion dollars in annual economic output and over 8,000 jobs unless something occurs to slow down the increase in low-priced Mexican imports of blueberries and vegetables.” A similar report from the University of Florida warned of possible losses in Florida of up to 7,882 jobs and $761 million in industry output.