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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Declaring it a “bad deal for Florida’s farmers,” Senator Marco Rubio said he would have a hard time supporting the new trade pact President Trump announced this week with Mexico. He joined Senator Bill Nelson in decrying the pact, which is intended to either replace or modify the North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as NAFTA.
“They may not need our vote in order to get this thing reauthorized,” Rubio told CBS Miami. “But I’m going to have a big problem with a deal if it doesn’t take care of Florida’s farmers and bring some justice and fairness to this process. And frankly I’ll be deeply disappointed because it will have left behind a key group in an important state.”
Florida is the winter produce capital of the United States. Nearly all of the lettuce, tomatoes, corn, radishes, strawberries and blueberries grown in the winter comes from Florida. Those growers, however, face direct competition from Mexico. Florida farmers have accused Mexico of violating NAFTA by improperly dumping their crops into U.S. markets. As part of the negotiations with Mexico, the United States had sought to include provisions that protect Florida farmers.
Mexico objected to those provisions and the negotiating team for the United States dropped their demands in order to gain concessions from Mexico in other areas of the deal, such as provisions that protect U.S. autoworkers.
Another problem, he noted, was that even within the United States “some of the other agriculture interests turned on us.”
“As long as their interests were protected and auto makers interests were protected it kind of left us out in the cold,” Rubio said.
Rubio said Florida growers have been a target for Mexico for years.
“Look Mexico has done everything possible to wipe out our vegetable growers,” he said. “They undercut us. They flood us with cheaper alternatives. They basically dump tomatoes into our market place, undercutting the price point for our farmers and wiping them out.”
Within NAFTA, there are rules that would prevent Mexico from “dumping” produce on the U.S. market, but Rubio said there isn’t an adequate way to enforce those rules. The U.S. wanted language inserted in the deal that would make it easier for Florida growers to prove any violations going forward and allow then to file complaints with groups such as the World Trade Organization.
Rubio said the impact of Mexico’s actions go beyond farmers.
“If you care about the environment think about what happens to that land if it’s no longer about vegetables. What do you do with land, for instance in South Dade, when it no longer is growing vegetables. Well the next option is you develop it. And that means people move in, houses are built, fertilizer goes into the ground at heavy levels, much heavier than you can see in agriculture and you can see the impact that has on our water and so forth.”
“So we can’t lose agriculture. We want to have an agriculture industry in Florida and it is important for the country to be able to feed ourselves. And so if NAFTA and this deal does not treat our Florida farmers fairly, if it doesn’t fix that injustice I’m going to have a big problem with this deal.”