Billings, Mont. – Thursday January 21, 22 groups representing ranchers, farmers, manufacturers, and workers sent a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in support of United States blueberry growers’ request for relief from surges of low-priced imported blueberries that threaten the viability of their domestic farms.
In September 2020, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) opened an investigation under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 to determine if United States blueberry growers were being harmed by increased blueberry imports. The American Blueberry Growers Alliance, representing mostly small, family-operated blueberry farmers in states including California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, alleged that imports of blueberries from Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Canada increased dramatically over the past five years, and are driving domestic blueberry farmers out of business.
The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), which fights to rebuild U.S. production, joined the letter. Michael Stumo, the CEO of CPA, said, “The free traders had their chance to show their cheap import policies would make the U.S. prosperous. They failed. It is clear we must protect US producers of blueberries and many other products to grow our economy and the purchasing power of our farmers, ranchers and workers.”
“America needs to reverse course on trade policies that are undermining domestic farmers and ranchers and hollowing out their rural communities. We need to support the blueberry growers because they’re taking the lead to change those policies that are harming them as well as many other commodity sectors, including the cattle industry,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, another signer of the letter.
The blueberry farmer support letter states in part, “A number of issues facing our organizations and the domestic blueberry growers are very similar. We face foreign targeting of U.S. markets and support for expanded production and export of agriculture products. We face similar conditions of foreign competition with unfair differentials in wages and regulatory regimes (environmental controls, food safety enforcement, etc.), and inadequate country of origin labeling. And we operate in an environment in which small, independent businesses are in competition with large businesses that favor and benefit from imports. The cumulative effects of imports under these conditions have significant negative impacts on rural agricultural producers and communities.”
According to the website of the American Blueberry Growers Alliance, “Much is at stake with numerous farms on the brink of folding. As a nation, our food security is a national security issue. And we cannot allow for our American blueberry farmers to go out of business.”
The Trade Act of 1974 requires a finding within 120 days of the USTR’s September 2020 opening of the Section 201 investigation.
Signers of today’s blueberry farmer support letter include American Grassfed Association, Buckeye Quality Beef Association (Ohio), Cattle Producers of Louisiana, Cattle Producers of Washington, Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association. Colorado Land, Water & Food Alliance, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, National Farmers Organization, National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association, Range Allotment Owners Association, R-CALF USA, Rural Coalition, Southern Colorado Livestock Association, Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (Wash.), The American Agriculture Movement, and World Farmers.