State senators push for continued tomato trade with Mexico - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

State senators push for continued tomato trade with Mexico

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PHOENIX -

Arizona's produce industry could take a major hit if the U.S. ends a trade agreement with Mexico. The tomato fight has turned into a political hot potato.

The agreement, according to Florida farmers, artificially lowered the price of fresh tomatoes flowing northward into the U.S., making it impossible for those U.S. farms to compete.

But for Arizona, some lawmakers say making an enemy of our number one trading partner might not be the best idea.

When it comes to produce in Arizona, the relationship with farmers and growers south of the border adds up to big business.

But some Arizona lawmakers feel the federal government is picking an unnecessary fight with Mexico -- one that's blown up into a debate over domestic farming vs. free trade.

"It's all about jobs. We stand to lose 111,000 jobs because of the cessation of this agreement. This is all about Arizona's economy. Mexico is our biggest trading partner," says State Sen. Jerry Lewis, Arizona Republican.

Mesa Republican Jerry Lewis joined forces with Democratic State Senator Linda Lopez to voice opposition to the termination of the fresh tomato importation agreement with Mexico.

The lawmakers believe trade with Mexico, which tops $12 billion a year across the board, will be hurt if our neighbors to the south feel like the U.S. government favors domestic markets.

"This is a golden opportunity right in our backyard and instead of limiting it, we need to be focused on strengthening that relationship," says Lewis.

Nogales could be the hardest hit, but the Mexican government could chose to retaliate, changing other trade agreements with the U.S.

Lewis believes in a free trade, supply and demand approach.

"If we can get a fresher tomato for a lesser cost and its right in our backyard and its going to stimulate our economy and bring jobs to Arizona why would we mess with that?"

On the other hand, you've got Eurofresh Farms based down in Willcox in Cochise County.

They support termination of the agreement -- that domestic producers both in Florida and Arizona will benefit by leveling the playing field.

The commerce department has a few months to decide whether or not that preliminary decision to end the pact will stand.

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