Messy tomato war ahead?
Reporter: Craig Smith
NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Produce packers in Nogales fear a tomato war may be on the way.
For much of the year the Nogales port area is packed with trucks bringing millions of pounds of tomatoes from Mexico. Tomatoes are Mexico's big money crop for the US. They mean plenty of jobs in the Nogales packing houses.
But packers here say growers in Florida are complaining Mexico is dumping tomatoes in the US market and driving prices too low. Florida farmers are pushing for higher tariffs on Mexican tomatoes---basically import fees that would make Mexican tomatoes cost more.
In Nogales they fear that'll squash Mexican imports and US jobs.
Jaime Chamberlain's family has run produce warehouses in Nogales for more than 80 years. He says, " We'll lose jobs immediately. If you lose the tomato industry which is the crux of our whole produce industry in this region and in regions like Texas and the California crossings you will have a loss of potential jobs not only directly related to our industry but indirectly with the industries that support us like the box industry, the seed industry, the pallet industry."
Nogales packers say pick on Mexican tomatoes and Mexico could fight back with fees that target all sorts of US products.
Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas says, "In the past Mexico has looked at retaliating against Washington Apples, other fruits, California grapes, other items from the United States that go into Mexico."
Politics enter into all this. Nogales packers say Florida tomato growers timed this to coincide with the Presidential election to try to get President Obama to side with them to try to win Florida.
Nogales is fighting back by contacting the U. S. Commerce Department and getting Arizona congressmen and Senators to apply pressure. You can expect Florida farmers to do the same so this could be a showdown of which state delegation has more clout.