Mexican tomato growers reject U.S. proposal, file lawsuits

Mexican tomato growers reject U.S. proposal, file lawsuits

Mexican tomato growers have rejected the latest proposal from the Department of Commerce for a renewed tomato suspension agreement.

According to a news release from Sherman & Sterling, the law firm representing Mexican tomato growers, the proposal would have stripped U.S. supermarkets and other buyers of Mexican tomatoes of their legal rights to reject tomatoes with condition defects and be reimbursed for their costs.

The Mexican tomato growers remain committed to a new agreement, but it must be “fully reflective of U.S. law,” according to the release.  

“We would prefer to continue the stability that the suspension agreement has brought to the U.S. tomato market for the past 22 years,” Rosario Beltran, president CAADES, the association that represents growers in the state of Sinaloa, said in the release. “But we need a fair deal and one that does not require us to enter contracts that strip our U.S. customers of their legal rights.”

Legal action

Mexican growers have filed for an injunction from a U.S. court to stop a Commerce Department antidumping investigation concerning Mexican tomatoes in the U.S. That investigation was set aside in 1996 when the two sides came to the original suspension agreement that set specific prices on imports. When Commerce dropped the suspension agreement May 7, it allowed the investigation to resume. Another consequence of the Commerce Department decision is a duty on imported Mexican tomatoes. On May 14, Customs and Border Protection issued a notice that a 17.56% tariff is reinstated and cash deposits or the posting of a bond equal to the estimated margins is required.

The injunction seeks to stop the investigation and cash deposits from being imposed, on the basis that the termination of the agreement was unlawful.

The release said that if the investigation does go forward, the Commerce Department must now finish its dumping determination on July 21, and the U.S. International Trade Commission must conclude its injury determination on Sept. 4. 
Mexican tomato growers will continue to try and secure a new suspension agreement and end the dumping investigation, according to the release.

“Otherwise, they look forward to the outcome of the investigation, in which they will seek vindication at the International Trade Commission from the Florida Tomato Exchange’s baseless claims of injury,” the release said.

Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said the contention by Mexican tomato growers that the Commerce Department withdrawal from the suspension agreement and the most recent proposal from Commerce are unlawful is off base.

“Commerce has very good lawyers and is not going to put something in a U,S, government proposal that is illegal,” he said May 14.