The Commerce Department and Mexican tomato growers initialed a new agreement that, beginning on Sept. 19, will control U.S. imports of roughly $2 billion a year worth of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, said officials from both nations on Wednesday.
The government would hire 240 agricultural inspectors a year to work at U.S. ports under a bill introduced on Thursday by four senators. The inspectors would work for the Customs and Border Protection agency and specialize in preventing entry of agricultural pests and diseases.
The U.S. agricultural trade surplus will shrink to $13.5 billion this fiscal year, the smallest in at least six years, as exports stagnate at $141.5 billion and imports tick upward to $128 billion, said the USDA in a quarterly forecast.
Although ag exports are consistently larger than ag imports, that trade surplus is forecast to narrow to $14.5 billion in fiscal 2019, which would be the smallest surplus since the $12.2 billion of 2007, say USDA economists.
Much of the domestic discussion of NAFTA’s effects have centered on American workers, eaters, and growers. But the deal has had just as large an impact on Mexico’s economy, workforce, and agriculture. In Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico, Alyshia Gálvez writes of how Mexico has been affected by the trade deal, and what possibilities for better deal-making could emerge if we took seriously the concerns of that country’s workers, eaters, and growers.
Stronger prices and rising demand for U.S. farm exports will propel sales to $142.5 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, said the USDA on Thursday. It would be the second-highest export total ever.
U.S. farm exports are headed uphill and downhill at the same time in the USDA’s quarterly forecast of overseas sales, the source of one-fifth of farm income. The agency forecast that exports will reach $140 billion in fiscal 2018.
Congress would double the USDA’s annual funding to oversee the booming organic agriculture sector and would provide an additional $5 million to prevent fraudulent organic imports under a bill filed by six U.S. representatives. An industry trade group said the bill would help the National Organic Program (NOP) keep pace with ever-increasing production and rapidly rising consumer demand for organics.
Consumer demand for organic food is booming, with sales topping $43 billion a year, creating the opportunity for importers to claim, fraudulently, that their goods deserve the premium attached to organics, according to a report by the office of the USDA's inspector general (OIG). "Without controls in place at U.S. ports of entry to verify the authenticity of organic import certificates, non-organic products may be imported as organic if unscrupulous parties are willing to use fraudulent organic import certificates," says the OIG.