Specialty crops widening ag trade deficit

An ag economist says America’s reliance on foreign fresh produce is likely to increase as the ag trade deficit widens.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s Loren Koeman tells Brownfield 30 years ago less than 15 percent of fruit was imported into the U.S.

“Now we’re at about 50 percent and we’ve been on a pretty straight trajectory,” he says. “Thirty years from now, that’s probably going to be over 70 percent if we stay on the current course.”

He says it’s difficult for American farmers to compete as imports increase.

“We need to be sure that other countries that can raise a crop year-round aren’t just dumping it on the market super cheap during our season in order to wash out our producers and then be able to take the whole market,” he says.

Koeman says the ag trade deficit bumped up to $32 billion in the latest quarterly update from USDA mainly because of growth in imported fresh fruits and vegetables.

He says the U.S. needs to address growing farm labor expenses and enhance trade agreements to protect against import dumping.

AUDIO: Loren Koeman, Michigan Farm Bureau

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