In a decision announced yesterday, United States blueberry growers suffered a huge blow. The U.S. International Trade Commission determined that fresh, chilled, or frozen blueberries are not being imported into the United States in a way that impairs the domestic industry.
The determination was made in the context of an investigation initiated on September 29, 2020, at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative. Information about this investigation and global safeguard investigations in general can be found on their website. The commission’s determination resulted from a 5-0 vote. The matter cannot be appealed and is now closed.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, which did not support importing blueberries from other countries, was not happy with the decision.
President Zippy Duvall said, “The American Farm Bureau Federation is disappointed that the International Trade Commission failed to recognize the damage certain imports are doing to America’s hardworking farmers.
“Seasonal fruit and vegetable farmers face unfair competition from foreign growers and today’s decision demonstrates that much work still needs to be done to address international trade imbalances. Increases in lower-priced fresh, chilled and frozen blueberries during seasonal harvest times in the U.S. leads to lower prices for domestic growers. Since domestic farmers are price-takers, not price-makers, they need time to adjust their operations to the increased import levels.
“We will continue to work with USDA, USTR and the Department of Commerce to find meaningful assistance for our domestic blueberry industry and to ensure America’s farmers are paid a fair price for the food they grow.”
While Farm Bureau did not approve, others were happy with the results. The Border Trade Alliance said it strongly supported Thursday’s decision by the International Trade Commission to end an inquiry over whether the importation of fresh blueberries from five countries harmed U.S. producers.
“This was the right decision. Imported blueberries aren’t harming domestic producers,” Border Trade Alliance President Ms. Britton Mullen said. “What’s especially encouraging is that this decision is consistent with the USMCA and makes it more likely that North America will realize the full potential of this 21st century trade agreement. We will continue to work with industry stakeholders, the Biden administration, and lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill to ensure that the letter and spirit of USMCA are upheld and that cross-border commerce of all types continues without tariff or non-tariff barriers to free trade.”
Mullen said the BTA remains concerned about ongoing efforts to undermine USMCA and curb fresh produce imports.
“As pleased as we are with this blueberry decision, trade advocates like us must remain vigilant,” Border Trade Alliance Chairman Sergio Contreras said. “We’ve already seen an alarming number of attempts to tilt the rules of free trade to benefit a few select regions and commodities.”