US: Farmers happy with possibly ending tomato agreement

When walking around Big Bear Farms you will spot some unusual crops on this homegrown Florida farm.

"Here you can see some of what we call false fruit or fall fruit," pointed out Kenneth Der.

For more than 20 years Kenneth Der put his green thumb to use growing USDA certified organic blueberries and other vegetables.

But, Der's family once grew tomatoes. He decided the crop was not worth the hassle. He blamed a 16-year trade agreement with Mexico, U. S. labor costs and regulations.

"Every Florida farmer has suffered from it and we are not talking about how many acres they grew. This agreement has wiped out some farms. I mean big time," said Der.

This week, the U. S. Commerce Department announced it may terminate the trade agreement with Mexico over tomato imports.

Der likes the idea. He believes it is outdated and Mexican imports are crippling the local industry.

"There is no way that a tomato farmer can make any money," he said.

For example, within a two week period in May the price of 25 pounds of tomatoes, at Hunsader Farms in Bradenton, went from eight dollars to one dollar. Farmers said at the time they could not compete with lower priced tomatoes coming out of Mexico.

"Basically all we have done is opened up some bad doors," said Der.

But they are doors the Mexican government wants to stay open. Mexican officials have said terminating the trade agreement could damage trade relations with the U. S. Der said it is the U. S. farmers that need the help.

"The bottom line is it has practically destroyed every farmer for tomatoes here in Florida," he said.


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