Perdue suggests labor policy over produce protectionism


Perdue suggests labor policy over produce protectionism

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue tells Brownfield the U.S. does not support protectionist policies and specialty crop growers need to find alternative solutions to secure domestic market access.

“We’ve got to figure out if these other countries are subsiding things we can legitimately take to a countervailing duty and dumping court and prove our case, and we’re willing to that.”

Many specialty crop groups claim Mexico, Peru and other countries are flooding the U.S. market when domestic produce is in season and have been calling for a level playing field.  While a seasonality clause was included at one point in the USMCA, it was removed in the final agreement.

Perdue says the biggest issue causing cheaper imports is the cost of labor. “When you deal with high-touch crops like specialty crops, the labor issue is something that they can sell much cheaper and I’d like to see us deal something with that similar to what we did in the automobile industry.” Labor provisions in the USMCA require a portion of Mexican autoworkers to receive wages comparable to the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. Trade Representative last week wrapped up hearings for specialty crop producers impacted by unfair trade.  Many of the groups are calling to protect seasonal markets from imports while other ag organizations, including dairy and biofuels, fear those policies would result in trade retaliation.

Brownfield interviewed Perdue following his recent visit to Michigan and Indiana which included a blueberry farm tour and round table discussions with specialty crop growers.