Blueberry growers have created a coalition to seek relief from rising imports.
The American Blueberry Growers Alliance (americanblueberrygrowers.com) plans to provide information and support to an ongoing U.S. International Trade Commission investigation into what the alliance believes is a serious injury caused by increased imports of fresh, chilled and frozen blueberries under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, according to a news release.
“We have been telling Washington about unfair trade practices for years,” Jerome Crosby, CEO of Pineneedle Farms, Willacoochee, Ga., and head of the alliance steering committee, said in the news release. “Our family farms continue to be harmed by a flood of blueberry imports. We need relief and for our leaders to stand with American growers.”
The alliance includes blueberry growers in Georgia, Florida, Michigan and California, according to the release.
“Many family farms have become a casualty of rising imports and are being forced out of commercial production as other countries increase production to deliberately target the U.S. market,” Brittany Lee, executive director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, said in the release. “If something is not done, we will lose the blueberry industry in the United States.”
U.S. blueberry imports rose by more than 60% between 2015 and 2019, according to the release, with imports from Peru and Mexico increasing by 1,258% and 268%, respectively. That has dropped prices, leading to a “devastating” effect on the domestic industry, the alliance said.
The alliance recently received support from a coalition of 32 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the congressional members.
“The significant surge of imports of blueberries in recent years, the timing of such imports during U.S. harvest periods, the extremely low pricing of the imports, and the targeting of the U.S. blueberry market by foreign exporters have had a devastating impact on the blueberry industry,” according to a letter from the legislators to the ITC. “ ... As the commission develops the evidentiary record in this case, it will be clear that imports are a substantial cause of serious injury to farmers.
"We urge the commission to promptly make an affirmative determination in this regard.”
The ITC plans to hold hearings in early 2021 and then deliver a report to the White House, according to the release. Under Section 203, the president will then determine what action to take. Alliance members are providing data and evidence on how blueberry imports are effecting their production, pricing and marketing activities, especially during the critical U.S. spring and summer harvesting seasons.
In August hearings, growers of blueberries and other fresh produce testified how imports, primarily from Mexico, are making it harder to stay in business. The administration announced plans for remedies on Sept. 1, and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office has asked the ITC to investigate imports of blueberries, bell peppers and strawberries.