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October 2017, Volume 23, Number 4

Florida, Southeast

Florida tomato growers want NAFTA re-negotiations to reduce imports of tomatoes from Mexico. In testimony to the House Agriculture Committee July 26, 2017, the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association said that the cost of producing mature green tomatoes in Florida was $10 for a 25-pound box in 2016-17, and that Mexican producers violated an agreement not to sell similar tomatoes in the US for less than $8.30 a box.

Mexican tomato exports peak in the winter months, but Mexican producers using protected structures export tomatoes and other vegetables to the US year round. US imports of tomatoes increased from 1.2 billion pounds in 2000 to 3.2 billion pounds in 2016, while US tomato production decreased from 2.7 billion to 1.7 billion pounds over the same period.

North Carolina. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in July 2017 sued to overturn North Carolina's SB 615, which prohibits farm employers from making payroll deductions for union dues and prohibits farm owners from settling lawsuits by agreeing to union contracts or representation. FLOC represents North Carolina farm workers under a collective bargaining agreement reached with the North Carolina Growers Association in 2004 to settle a FLOC lawsuit against NCGA.

FLOC represents about 10,000 mostly H-2A workers brought to North Carolina by the NCGA. Dues are deducted from wages by the 700 grower-members of NCGA.

Critics allege that Republican state senator Brent Jackson was behind SB 615, seeking retaliation for suits mounted by FLOC on behalf of workers employed on his farm. In 1998, an H-2A worker suffered heatstroke on Jackson's farm, which was ultimately required to cover his care expenses in Mexico. Jackson left the NCGA in 2014 after settling a wage dispute with 32 workers, and in 2015 settled a suit with 32 workers for unpaid wages.

FLOC celebrated its 50th anniversary in Toledo, Ohio in September 2017.