Marianna- Growers call it 'tomato dumping'
"If I'm going to go after the competition, I'm going to go after them in their back yard" explained Jackson County Growers Association President, Eric Toole. "So, if they can dump tomatoes out on the U.S. market at a cheaper price and at the same time the Florida tomatoes are coming out, most people will go with the cheaper tomato. It's driving the Florida tomato producers out of business."
Intentional or not, Toole was not alone in saying that was what Mexico had been doing to Florida's tomato growers.
"Once you drive your competition out of business, you can come back with a monopoly and that seems to be what the Mexican tomato growers are after."
Wednesday, Congressman Steve Sutherland announced the Commerce Department had negotiated an agreement that would keep Mexico from undercutting Florida tomato prices. It also suspended the terms of a 1996 investigation agreement on the same issue. It was supposed to put foreign and domestic growers on an equal playing field.
But, Toole told us the new development may not help local farmers who had already made plans for the spring.
"I think the acreage that was planned on being grown last week or the week before is probably the same" he said. "It's not going to change, but a fall crop may be more in line. And, it very probably will affect next years crop. I do have some friends who only grow 40, 50, 75 acres that, without this, [agreement] I would seriously see them going out of business."
The spring tomato planting season runs from mid-February and lasts through march.