naplesnews.com: By LAURA LAYDEN: Florida tomato growers say they’ll be out of business in a decade if rules for Mexican imports don’t change.
They maintain that a 1996 U.S.-Mexico agreement continues to hurt the state, and the 2011-12 season was one of the worst on record for Florida’s tomato growers: The crop lost nearly $200 million of its value.
If the suspension pact stays in place, the tomato industry in Florida and throughout the U.S. will not exist in 10 years, said Reggie Brown, manager of the Florida Tomato Committee.
“It will go broke,” Brown said.
He spoke Wednesday at the 37th annual Florida Joint Tomato Conference in Naples. The event, which draws growers from around the state, is being held at the Ritz-Carlton beach-front hotel off Vanderbilt Beach Road through Sept. 9.
State tomato growers have launched an attack against the 1996 agreement, aimed at controlling Mexican tomato shipments into the U.S. They say the agreement isn’t working.
Mexican growers and other supporters of the agreement disagree and are lining up to defend it, arguing it’s needed for a stable tomato market, said Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
The association is a trade group with more than 100 members involved in growing, harvesting, importing and distributing produce from Mexico.