Written by The Business Journal Staff
With guidance from the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a 60-day stay on its final rule to allow fresh lemon imports from northwest Argentina.
The citrus industry raised alarm bells in December 2016 when the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced its final rule allowing the imports after a 15-year ban.
It’s a bittersweet moment for the citrus industry, which is also stinging from President Donald Trump’s executive order yesterday withdrawing the U.S. from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would’ve opened up Pacific Rim markets for California citrus.
“The President campaigned on a platform of protecting American industries from trade packages that create unnecessary vulnerabilities for domestic production, business, and jobs. The President’s swift action in regard to the Argentine lemon rule is a clear signal that he intends to keep his campaign promise,” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen, in a statement. “While CCM may disagree with the President’s position on other trade negotiations from the perspective that deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have benefitted citrus producers, we support the Administration’s efforts to protect domestic industries.”
Citrus growers say imported Argentine lemons could leave domestic citrus crops vulnerable to invasive pests and diseases. The bacteria responsible for Huanglongbing, a disease that has devastated citrus industries around the world, including Florida, has been present in Argentine citrus since 2012, according to a news release from the California Citrus Mutual.
“While CCM does not oppose trade or the inevitable competition created for our industry by the importation of offshore product, we cannot support any trade deal that will place the California citrus industry at risk,” Nelsen said in a statement. “To this end, we will continue to work with the USDA to create a work plan that better protects the domestic citrus industry from the multitude of pests and diseases known to be present in northwest Argentina.”