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Citrus Industry Fears for Survival
Miami Herald ^ | 11/02/03 | NANCY SAN MARTIN AND RICHARD BRAND

Posted on 11/02/2003 9:07:25 AM PST by Guard Dog

FREE TRADE Citrus industry fears for survival Free trade could be a fatal blow to Florida's signature crop if it means reducing a tariff that now makes Brazilian orange juice more expensive. BY NANCY SAN MARTIN AND RICHARD BRAND nsanmartin@herald.com

ARARAQUARA, Brazil - The oranges that weigh branches down on row after row of trees as far as the eye can see make a beautiful sight. But immersed in the intoxicating scent of citrus is a death threat to Florida's signature industry.

The sweet fruit has turned into a sour battle between the two giants of the orange world, Brazil and Florida, which together account for 85 percent of all citrus concentrate production.

At the heart of the dispute is a U.S. tariff of about eight cents a liter on imports of orange juice concentrate that has helped keep Florida growers in business since it was implemented by Congress in 1930.

But there is little question that lowering U.S. barriers to Brazilian imports would be a boon to the Brazilians and catastrophic for Florida's iconic industry, which employs 90,000 people, has annual sales of $1.6 billion and holds 800,000 acres of green space.

Although Florida's citrus industry is confronted with the lowest orange prices in decades, Brazilian grower Nivaldo Castanharo says he, too, is struggling to survive.

As the brown-haired 33-year-old walked around his family's 200,000-tree farm, he explained how the Brazilian orange market is saturated, less lucrative than in past years and desperately seeking to expand.

It cost him $2.70 last year to produce a 90-pound box of oranges, which he sold for $2.80, said the jeans-clad Castanharo. ``But if you [can export more to the United States,] you can sell more. With more access to the U.S. market, he figures he can get $4 a box -- and still undersell Florida's growers.

MARKET ACCESS

That's why Brazil is demanding greater access to U.S. agricultural markets as part of the hemispherewide Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement sought by Washington. Miami will host a Cabinet-level FTAA negotiating session Nov. 20-21.

The FTAA would create a 34-nation, $13 trillion trading bloc by 2005 that would phase out most barriers to foreign trade and investments and, its advocates argue, help all member nations by increasing trade across the board.

Some Florida sectors would win under the FTAA -- exporters of electronics, shippers, pharmaceutical firms and any other industries whose products would face lower tariffs in Latin America. And Brazil would have some losers -- domestic electronics manufacturers now protected by those tariffs.

Florida's citrus industry, however, would take a hit.

If Washington really wants free trade so it can increase American exports to Latin America, Brazilians argue, it must stop hampering foreigners who compete in the U.S. market.

''We are interested in market access for all products, not just agricultural products,'' Rubens Antonio Barbosa, Brazil's ambassador to Washington, said in a phone interview. ``. . . Brazil has presented a proposal to the United States. The ball is not in our court, the ball is in the U.S. court.''

Orange growers in Brazil are salivating at the prospect of expanding their exports to the U.S. market.

''Consumption is at the same level as it was four or five years ago,'' said Agnaldo De Tarso Rigolin, production manager at Cambuhy, a farm with 2.3 million trees that produces about four million boxes of oranges each year. ``We need a new market.''

But Florida growers say that repealing or even reducing the tariff would drive them out of business and give Brazil control of the U.S. market -- all in the name of a flawed effort to create an ''even playing field'' in trade.

LABOR COSTS

''We're paying a laborer $60 a day. They're paying their guys $6,'' said Scott Christmas, a spokesman for the Florida Farm Bureau. ``When their farms provide their workers with housing and education, and when they begin to abide by environmental laws, then we'd be willing to do that.''

Labor, land and water in this fertile corner of southern Brazil are so abundant and cheap that it costs farmers 33 cents to produce a pound of oranges, compared with 72 cents for Florida's farmers.

''It's an impressive industry they have,'' acknowledged Florida grower George Austin, who has visited Brazil. `` . . . We can't compete with them. It's not a level playing field.''

It's not the first time that the U.S. tariff on orange imports has been threatened. The Kennedy administration attempted to repeal the tariff in 1963. In 1970, an effort to reduce it also failed. Both moves were blocked by aggressive lobbying efforts, which continue today.

Indeed, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said Florida orange growers are now engaged in frenetic lobbying in Washington to keep the tariff.

''The citrus industry is more engaged than they've ever been in history,'' Putnam said. `` . . . This is not your typical lobbying campaign. This is for survival.''

EFFECT ON CONSUMERS

Proponents of free trade argue that it would benefit consumers. Removing the tariff would cut 29 cents from the U.S. price of a gallon of imported orange juice concentrate, making for cheaper orange juice on American breakfast tables.

''Consumers have been hurt by the tariff. But they don't have an interest group. They are not organized. They don't have money behind them,'' said Jerry Haar, director of the University of Miami's Inter-American Business and Labor Program.

But Florida growers say a tariff reduction would in fact drive them out of business and give the Brazilians a commanding position from which to set prices.

''If you eliminate the tariffs, then Florida orange growers would go out of business, and that would leave Brazilian growers with a monopoly,'' said Casey W. Pace, spokeswoman for Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest growers group.

Florida growers also point out that the NAFTA free-trade agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1993 effectively allowed Mexican tomato farmers to wipe out their Florida counterparts -- but did little to make fresh tomatoes or ketchup cheaper.

''We don't exactly have a good track record when it comes to free-trade agreements,'' said Ray Hodge, the Florida Farm Bureau's national affairs coordinator.

It's that record that worries George Austin of LaBelle, whose 200 acres of groves scattered across Southwest Florida have been in his family since the 1930s.

Each fall, Austin hires scores of workers to pick the fruit and dump it into trucks that deliver it to a processing plant, where within minutes it is sorted, washed and squeezed. The juice is turned into concentrate and frozen, while the rinds and pulp are processed for export to Europe as cattle feed.

Austin lamented that he will probably be the last orange grower in his family -- regardless of whether the tariff weathers FTAA talks.

With low orange prices and a booming population encroaching on his land, Austin says he is telling his daughters and grandchildren to stay away from the business and is weighing opportunities to sell it.

''I have a couple of small groves in the path of progress, in areas where they're starting to build,'' Austin said. ``In those, I think the best option might be to sell it to a developer. You have to find a way to make it profitable.''


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government
KEYWORDS: agriculture; brazil; citrus; florida; freetrade; oj; orangejuice
A simple solution. If the cost of imported oranges is going to drop because the tariff would be removed then it is necassary to reduce the cost to produce Florida oranges. Assuming labor costs are as low as possible, and the cost of trees, land, and farm equipment will only go up from here, then the only answer is to reduce the tax burden on the grower. Both state property taxes as well as federal taxes on the business and the grower personally. That would be logical. In Washington, however, there is a different logic. If the tariff is removed then that revenue to the treasury will be lost. Therefore, the congressman decides, we must increase taxes elsewhere to make up for it. In a perfect world, a politician would at least bother to learn something about business before making policy over it.
1 posted on 11/02/2003 9:07:26 AM PST by Guard Dog
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To: farmfriend
ping
2 posted on 11/02/2003 10:19:09 AM PST by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: Guard Dog; AAABEST; Ace2U; Alamo-Girl; Alas; amom; AndreaZingg; Anonymous2; ApesForEvolution; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.

Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.

For real time political chat - Radio Free Republic chat room

3 posted on 11/02/2003 10:20:38 AM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: Guard Dog
We don't owe Brazil anything. The US should ensure that Brazilian citrus can't undercut Florida's. If that means a tariff, so be it.

I live in Florida, and it is truly a burden for these growers whose groves are their lives.

4 posted on 11/02/2003 10:28:00 AM PST by jra
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To: Guard Dog
''We're paying a laborer $60 a day. They're paying their guys $6,'' said Scott Christmas, a spokesman for the Florida Farm Bureau. ``When their farms provide their workers with housing and education, and when they begin to abide by environmental laws, then we'd be willing to do that.'' ,p> You will note he didn't mention taxes. You are underestimating the cost to the farmer of regulation, especially environmental law.
5 posted on 11/02/2003 10:31:50 AM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by politics.)
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To: farmfriend
BTTT!!!!!!
6 posted on 11/02/2003 10:39:35 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: farmfriend
Some years ago, when Coca Cola bought Minute Maid, they also bought 12% of the land mass of Belize for growing citrus.
7 posted on 11/02/2003 10:42:19 AM PST by blam
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To: harpseal
Tariff PING
8 posted on 11/02/2003 11:35:00 AM PST by hedgetrimmer
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To: Guard Dog
In Washington, however, there is a different logic. If the tariff is removed then that revenue to the treasury will be lost. Therefore, the congressman decides, we must increase taxes elsewhere to make up for it.

That is the same dilemma that was faced by our Founders back in 1789, during the enactment of The First Federal Revenue Law

On April 8, James Madison, once again a congressman from Virginia, addressed the House. He went right to the point. Congress, he said, must "remedy the evil" of "the deficiency in our Treasury." He argued that "[a] national revenue must be obtained," but not in a way "oppressive to our constituents." He then proposed that the House adopt legislation, virtually identical to the unimplemented Confederation tariff, imposing a five-percent tariff on all imports...

Congressman John Laurence of New York supported Madison's proposal, arguing that "the more simple a plan of revenue is, the easier it becomes understood and executed." Madison elaborated. A single, uniform tariff, he insisted, had two advantages. First, it could be imposed quickly, which was important because "the prospect of our harvest from the Spring importations is daily vanishing." Second, it was consistent with the principles of free trade

While widely demonized, misconstrued and denounced by the special interests that corrupt Congress today, our Founders wisely recognized that a relatively-low, uniform, flat-rate revenue tariff levied on ALL imported goods was the least oppressive form of taxation that could be imposed by our fledgling Republic.

It would be equally wise if we could emulate their example as best we can today: raising revenue for the Treasury through a uniform tariff to enable further reduction of other, more onerous, forms of domestic taxation. Of course, reduction of the size and scope of the federal government should be pursued as well.

9 posted on 11/02/2003 12:43:57 PM PST by Willie Green (Go Pat Go!!!)
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To: Guard Dog
If the Federal Government forfeits the funding they receive from import tariffs by initiating Free Trade agreements with foreign competitors where do they makeup the loss?

They'll have to increase the burden of the American Tax Payer in some way. Import taxes are supposed to be the major tool for funding the Federal Government. When our Nation was founded it was hoped these tariffs would keep the citizens burden to minimum and increase confidence in the Federal Government.

Free Trade agreements confirm the Feds believe the people are their servants and the obligation of the government to serve the people no longer exists. They don't even need the confidence of the people to continue operating. Arrogant elitists don’t care about what their slaves think.

The logical thing to do, is to follow the original business plan as closely as possible and quit ticking the people off by undercutting their labor, increasing their tax burden and extinguishing their livelihoods.

Any compromise made to the government that allows them to stop collecting import tarrifs, is an attempt to justify submitting to tyranny.
10 posted on 11/02/2003 12:49:03 PM PST by Fearless Flyers (Proud to be of The Brave and the Free, http://fearless-flyers.com)
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To: Guard Dog
I noticed that they printed a little joke in this article:

Removing the tariff would cut 29 cents from the U.S. price of a gallon of imported orange juice concentrate, making for cheaper orange juice on American breakfast tables.

Like someone said once, "Wheat goes up, bread goes up. Wheat comes down, bread stays up."

11 posted on 11/02/2003 12:49:23 PM PST by petuniasevan (No one is listening until you make a mistake.)
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To: petuniasevan
As the article pointed out, the same thing happened to tomatoes imported from Mexico but the price of tomato products has not dropped. If I were in charge, I'd withdraw from most all the free trade agremments, raise tariffs, and cut the federal income tax to a 5% flat tax with no exemptions. In ten years the federal govenment would have more revenue than it has today.
12 posted on 11/02/2003 1:28:29 PM PST by Guard Dog (A patriot never sleeps)
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To: Guard Dog
"''Consumers have been hurt by the tariff. But they don't have an interest group. They are not organized. They don't have money behind them,'' said Jerry Haar, director of the University of Miami's Inter-American Business and Labor Program."

A Marxist promise to look out for us?

The willingness to trash an industry, private businesses and communities in the name of saving me a few dollars a year on my food bill only serves to demonstrate their contempt for the working American. It is not just about a few cents a gallon, it's about established communities. Destroying families and communities is the Marxist goal.

13 posted on 11/02/2003 1:54:35 PM PST by Ches (Please pray for James, gubamyster and family.)
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To: jra
I live in Florida, too. I am happy to pay more for Oranges than they are worth. And shoes, too. And lumber. I make enough money as it is, and feel guilty. I want to pay more for stuff, so that the underpriveledged get more. It's just not fair that I live in a capitalist society, and cheat and steal to get my wealth. I am ashamed.

I am in favor of preventing, through tarrifs, any product that would result in a single job loss. We all have ths same intentions, after all.

In fact, let's raise the minimum wage to $120,000 a year. If it is good enough for longshoremen in LA (that is the average salary), it is good enough for all of us.

/sarcasm
14 posted on 11/02/2003 4:33:09 PM PST by MonroeDNA (Please become a monthly donor!!! Just $3 a month--you won't miss it, and will feel proud!)
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To: MonroeDNA
No one is suggesting you should pay more than they're worth.

Conversely, you also should not be able--at the expense of hard working AMERICAN citrus farmers--to get them for *less* than they're worth either.

Did you read the part of the article that details what happened to Florida tomato growers as a result of NAFTA?

I'm all for lower prices, but dumping South American citrus into the US is killing the entire stateside citrus industry. Let's allow them to be completely killed off so we'll *have* to buy it from overseas, then see what happens to the price when there are NO American farmers growing it...huh?
15 posted on 11/02/2003 8:02:32 PM PST by jra
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To: Guard Dog; clamper1797; sarcasm; BrooklynGOP; A. Pole; Zorrito; GiovannaNicoletta; Caipirabob; ...
Ping

On or off let me know
16 posted on 11/03/2003 8:45:18 AM PST by harpseal (stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Willie Green
BUMP!
17 posted on 11/03/2003 9:24:38 AM PST by Tauzero (Avoid loose hair styles. When government offices burn, long hair sometimes catches on fire.)
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To: jra
I should not be able to buy anything at less than the fair market value, and the fair market value of a product must also include the costs of keeping Americans employed.

Did I get that right? That is your position?
18 posted on 11/04/2003 5:30:51 PM PST by MonroeDNA (Please become a monthly donor!!! Just $3 a month--you won't miss it, and will feel proud!)
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To: MonroeDNA
I should not be able to buy anything at less than the fair market value,

More correctly, it's an unfair business practice to dump product on the market below cost in an attempt to run competitors out of business.

and the fair market value of a product must also include the costs of keeping Americans employed.

No. What I said was that as a result of dumping said product into the American market that American workers would likely lose jobs. In the case of citrus farmers, when you lose your job, you lose your land, too.

Regardless, we should support American businesses over foreign ones whenever possible. In this case, support is needed to level the playing field with regard to South American citrus producers.
19 posted on 11/05/2003 1:44:48 PM PST by jra
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To: jra
"More correctly, it's an unfair business practice to dump product on the market below cost in an attempt to run competitors out of business. "

What proof do you have that this is happening to the Citrus industry? Who is selling below cost?

"Conversely, you also should not be able--at the expense of hard working AMERICAN citrus farmers--to get them for *less* than they're worth either."

Who decides what a product is worth? I do, the consumer.

20 posted on 11/05/2003 3:51:49 PM PST by MonroeDNA (Please become a monthly donor!!! Just $3 a month--you won't miss it, and will feel proud!)
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To: jra
"What I said was that as a result of dumping said product into the American market that American workers would likely lose jobs."

Nice inflamatory language. Now change it to:

"What I said was that as a result of selling said product into the American market that American workers would likely lose jobs."

Selling v. dumping. Are you OK with selling?

"Dumping" is selling below cost. If that is what they are doing, I agree with you. "Selling" is at cost plus profit. If that is what they are doing, do you agree with me?

21 posted on 11/05/2003 3:56:19 PM PST by MonroeDNA (Please become a monthly donor!!! Just $3 a month--you won't miss it, and will feel proud!)
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