The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) has criticized the Florida Tomato Exchange for what it describes as a "pattern of innuendo and deception" concerning the U.S.'s withdrawal from a tomato trade deal with Mexico and subsequent implementation of tariffs.
The FPAA issued a statement on Monday in response to a recent rebuttal by Michael Schadler of the Florida Tomato Exchange regarding a letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee by Mexican Senator Gustavo Madero.
"We at the FPAA see a continuing pattern of innuendo and deception from the folks in Florida," the FPAA said.
"It follows a pattern of propaganda that is heavy on hyperbole and short on facts, evidence, and truth. For the past three years the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) has stayed on message, repeating its claims of Mexico’s unfair trading practices, illegal government subsidies, dumping of tomatoes on the US market, worker mistreatment, and more without backing up their accusations with evidence of any kind."
The Florida Tomato Exchange has for a long time advocated the U.S.'s withdrawal from the Tomato Suspension Agreement with Mexico, claiming that it has been flouted and that U.S. growers have suffered as a result. The FPAA, meanwhile, is a long-standing advocate of free trade for Mexican produce in North America and over recent months has frequently accused the FTE of protectionism.
In the FPAA's Monday statement, the organization listed a series of rebuttals regarding Schadler's letter.
In response to the FTE's claims that Mexican tomato growers receive “illegal” subsidies and that is why they have taken so much market share away from Florida tomatoes, the FPAA said that although Mexico has had programs to promote agriculture, they are "small and nothing like our USDA programs".
"To the contrary, US government assistance to agriculture dwarfs anything that Mexico could possibly do," it said.
It added that the FTE "ignores development trends and grower consolidation to paint an inaccurate picture of farm closures". The group said that the decline in the number of Floridian tomato companies during the 22-year duration of the old suspension agreement could be attributed to many causes.
"Most importantly, Florida growers failed to see the rest of the agricultural world evolving into the 21st century and got passed by. Now they are crying foul," it said.
"They are mostly producing flavorless tomatoes that consumers have abandoned, and they are trying to use politics to maintain an outmoded business model."
It also highlighted that Mexican tomato imports are an important economic driver for U.S. companies and job creation.
In addition, the FPAA said it 'strongly agrees' that U.S. farmers must be protected, but claimed the FTE's action "go well beyond the intent of the law".
"They are attempting to create a seasonal monopoly to force their products onto the American public to make up for their lack of foresight and innovation. In short, they are trying to regulate their way to profitability," it said.
The U.S. withdrew from the Tomato Suspension Agreement with Mexico in early May, implementing tariffs on 17.5% and reinitiating an anti-dumping investigation, the conclusions of which are expected toward the end of this year.