Florida Rep. Cammack: Specialty Crop Production Could Go Out if Issues Not Addressed

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By Clint Thompson

Specialty crop production in the U.S. is in danger. Unfair trade practices with Mexico have made sustainability a national concern for producers, not just those in the Southeast. That’s why it has to be addressed in the next Farm Bill, to preserve those farms that have survived so far.

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Photo by Clint Thompson/Shows Kat Cammack speaking during the Farm Bill listening session.

Florida Rep. Kat Cammack (FL-03) discussed that issue following the Farm Bill listening session in Newberry, Florida, on April 24.

“We feed over 150 million Americans every year coming out of the Sunshine State. I think it’s so important that this committee hear exactly what the challenges are that our producers are facing here in the Sunshine State,” Cammack said.

The conference room at the University of Florida Food and Agricultural Sciences-Newberry location was standing room only as farmers and industry leaders representing the agricultural sector spoke to Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, along with bipartisan members, including Cammack, Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09) and Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08).

“The big difference here is the specialty crops that we grow. Florida’s home to over 300 specialty crops. With that comes unique challenges. We have a lack of a seasonable or perishable protection which means we compete with Mexico. Often times, what we pay in an hour, they pay in a day. They don’t abide by the same regulatory standards, and they’re able to undercut our market significantly. That’s a real challenge,” Cammack said.

“Our farmers shouldn’t have to combat everything from weather to pests to invasive species and also have to compete with unfair trade practices that have been laid out. We need to address the seasonal and perishable disparities that are out there.”

Expensive input costs also top the concerns of growers that need to be addressed in the next Farm Bill.

“I think there absolutely needs to be an emphasis on addressing input costs. Bringing down input costs will make food more affordable in the grocery store. When the price of food is going through the roof the challenge is the producers are not seeing that increase. They’re just absorbing it,” Cammack said.

“We have a significant challenge ahead of us in addressing some of these more nuance issues, but if we don’t, we’re going to see specialty crop production in America go out.”