The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced this week that it will not extend beyond May 26 the stay of the final regulation on the importation of fresh lemons from Argentina into the U.S., despite dire consequences to the U.S. citrus industry.
“It is evident that the California citrus industry is the pawn in a greater trade deal between the Trump Administration and Argentina,” says Ventura County citrus grower and Chair of the Santa Paula, CA-based U.S. Citrus Science Council (USCSC) Richard Pidduck. “The announcement by APHIS comes only days after President Trump’s meeting with Argentinian president Mauricio Macri and preempts scheduled meetings between U.S. citrus representatives and senior officials at APHIS and the U.S. Trade Representative this week.”
The USCSC represents growers, packers, and shippers of lemons in the states of California and Arizona who will be adversely affected by the importation of lemon from Argentina to the U.S. market.
“The haste in which this announcement was made is nothing less than disrespectful,” adds Pidduck, “and I am extremely disappointed by the Administration’s complete disregard for domestic citrus producers and the impact of this rule to the California fresh lemon industry.”
The announcement comes less than a week after President Trump signed an executive order on promoting agriculture and rural prosperity in America.
“President Trump and the Administration have turned their backs on the California lemon industry and the many family farmers who work tirelessly to deliver a safe and quality product to consumers,” concludes Pidduck.
California Citrus Mutual President and USCSC board member Joel Nelsen was similarly incensed by the USDA announcement.
“Allowing the importation of lemons from Argentina is a complete departure by the administration from its self-proclaimed stance against trade policies that place American businesses at a disadvantage,” said Nelsen. “The rule will open the floodgates to pests and diseases known to be in Argentina that could threaten our domestic lemon supply.
“The foundation of this rule and the execution of the rulemaking process under the Obama Administration and now the Trump Administration is laden with hypocrisy, ignores transparency, and dismisses the scientific and economic data that prove the rule will have significant negative consequences for California’s $3 billion fresh citrus industry.
“It appears that to President Trump’s Administration, the prosperity of the California citrus industry, which is one of the only fresh citrus industries in the world to have not been ravaged by the devastating Huanglongbing disease, is not ‘critical to America’s national security, stability, and prosperity’,” Nelsen concluded.