Cucumber and squash producers threatened by imports
American cucumber and squash growers are asking the International Trade Commission to take action on unfair trade practices impacting markets.
Fourth-generation Michigan farmer Fred Leitz grows cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, and blueberries.
“The consumer needs to know where they produce is being grown,” he says.
He tells Brownfield specialty crop growers continue to raise their voices as an increase of imports from Mexico during the domestic season threatens their livelihood and he’s glad to see the issue rising at the federal level.
“Four or five years ago I felt like the long crier out here about it,” he says. “In the last year, year and a half, every commodity group is saying, hey, this is affecting us!”
In March, the International Trade Commission ruled imports of blueberries do not seriously injure the U.S. industry but Leitz believes how these determinations are made doesn’t factor in the whole story.
“The International Trade Commission is not taking into account the cost of labor in other countries,” he says. “I’m paying about $18.50 per hour, whereas in Mexico they’re paying $15 a day.”
John Kran with Michigan Farm Bureau says the state is the second largest fresh market cucumber and winter squash producer in the nation and third for fresh summer squash but imports are threaten their viability.
“We’ve seen foreign production come in during those peak production times and overall drive those costs down,” he explains. “In a lot of cases we’re seeing that are below what our farmers have in their cost of production.”
A recent report by the Florida Department of Agriculture found the nation’s top-producing cucumber states have each seen a significant reduction in market share and shipments, up to 63 percent, in the last 20 years.
However, 2020 the market share of imported cucumbers from Mexico was more than 30 percent and volumes were up more than 130 percent. Likewise, with squash, the growth of the overall market did not translate into growth for domestic producers.