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Sens. Cruz, Rubio, Scott Urge USDA to Reverse Decision That Harms American Grapefruit Growers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) today led members of the Florida and Texas Congressional delegations in urging the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack to reverse the Department’s unjustified decision to administratively suspend juice content standards for imported grapefruits, and to request information regarding the circumstances of the suspension, which was made without a proper rulemaking process and for which Congress was not notified. 

Following the suspension of grapefruit juice content standards, Texas A&M University found in November 2021, that more than 85 percent of grapefruits imported from Mexico in September and October would have “failed quality standards and been rejected,” if not for the suspension of juice content standards by Secretary Vilsack. 

In the letter, the members wrote:

“The suspension of grapefruit juice standards for imported grapefruits poses a serious threat to American growers and undermines their ability to compete in the American market at a pivotal time. In recent months and years, our grapefruit growers have been severely impacted by natural disasters and citrus diseases.”

[…] 

“Now, this suspension allows low quality grapefruit products to flood our market, and forces our growers to compete against low-cost, subsidized imports. This regulatory patch is discriminatory in nature, as substandard grapefruit products can now be imported, meanwhile, American-grown grapefruits must still meet juice content standards. Additionally, as these imported grapefruits are of poor quality due to their low juice content, American consumers may become averse to purchasing grapefruits, as the substandard imported products could adversely impact the entire market due to unmet consumer expectations.” 

[…]

“The core mission of USDA is to promote and support American agricultural producers, not to disadvantage them by creating unfair advantages for foreign growers. As such, we urge you to immediately reinstate juice content standards for imported grapefruits.”

Co-signers in the House of Representatives include Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Al Lawson (D-Fla.), John Rutherford (R- Fla.), Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

Read the full text of the letter here and below.        

Dear Secretary Vilsack: 

We write to urge you to immediately reverse a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to suspend Section 8e grapefruit juice content standards for imported grapefruits via marketing order “Patch #65.” Additionally, we seek to understand why the USDA implemented this regulatory patch without public notification or input. 

The suspension of grapefruit juice standards for imported grapefruits poses a serious threat to American growers and undermines their ability to compete in the American market at a pivotal time.  In recent months and years, our grapefruit growers have been severely impacted by natural disasters and citrus diseases. Now, this suspension allows low quality grapefruit products to flood our market, and forces our growers to compete against low-cost, subsidized imports.  This regulatory patch is discriminatory in nature, as substandard grapefruit products can now be imported, meanwhile, American-grown grapefruits must still meet juice content standards.  Additionally, as these imported grapefruits are of poor quality due to their low juice content, American consumers may become averse to purchasing grapefruits, as the substandard imported products could adversely impact the entire market due to unmet consumer expectations. 

In addition to immediately reinstating the juice content standards for imported grapefruits, we ask you to address each of the following questions in a written response:

  • Why did USDA implement Patch #65?
  • Which authority did the USDA use to suspend the Section 8e juice content standards for imported grapefruits?
  • Was this patch implemented at the request of a federal government agency?  If so, which agency?
  • Why did the USDA implement Patch #65 without soliciting public comments or notifying Congress?
  • Was this patch implemented as part of an agreement with, or an effort to secure an agreement with, a foreign government or entity?  If so, please explain the context for the issuance of this patch.    

The core mission of USDA is to promote and support American agricultural producers, not to disadvantage them by creating unfair advantages for foreign growers.  As such, we urge you to immediately reinstate juice content standards for imported grapefruits.  

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  We look forward to receiving your response in a timely manner.  

Sincerely, 

/s/

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