Florida tomato interests dragging Mexican growers back to court will do little to assure buyers of an orderly marketplace.

A Florida Tomato Exchange lawsuit filed with the U.S. Court of International Trade seeks to ensure the U.S. Commerce Department’s tomato suspension agreement with Mexican growers setting a floor price on imports complies with federal fair trade laws. See story here. 

Uncertainty has hung over the tomato market since August, when Florida approached the Commerce Department about pulling out of the suspension agreement, first agreed upon in 1996.

Commerce Department officials and Mexican growers OK’d a new agreement on March 4, and at the time Florida growers expressed cautious optimism in the deal, although harboring concerns for floor prices set under the deal accurately reflecting production costs.

Floridians have cited the reasoning for the new suit as wanting to make sure the agreement compels Mexican exporters to comply with “very specific provisions of U.S. law.”

The March deal is not lacking in specifics, spelling out precise seasonal pricing structures based on factors such as whether product is open-field, “adapted-environment,” “controlled-environment,” loose or packed or specialty.

Mexico’s tomato industry has gained market share in recent years by adopting new production technologies and new varieties to appeal to consumers.

A free and fair marketplace requires a level playing field, and Florida growers have every right to work through legal channels to make sure that it is.

But ultimately embracing innovation — rather than litigation — is in the best interest for all stakeholders in the U.S. tomato market.

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