By Linda Kor
The upcoming renewal of a U.S. trade agreement with Mexico has spurred Eurofresh Farms, along with other U.S. tomato growers, to seek support for amending and enforcing the agreement they believe has allowed Mexican tomato growers to flood the U.S. market with under priced, lower quality tomatoes.
District III Navajo County Supervisor Sylvia Allen addressed fellow board members Jan. 8 regarding the matter, asking for a resolution of support for the enforcement of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s anti-dumping petition and its existing tomato suspension agreement with Mexico producers.
According to Huub van den Homberg, Snowflake site manager for Eurofresh, part of the problem is that Mexico exports its tomatoes at a much lower cost than U.S. growers are able to compete with. At 21 cents per pound, the Mexico tomatoes come into the country at about one-third the U.S. cost of 60 cents per pound. “This makes it difficult to compete. The Mexican growers claim they grow their tomatoes in greenhouses, but it’s not the greenhouse standards that exist in the U.S. or other countries,” explained van den Homberg.
According to Allen, the trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico has not been properly enforced since it was implemented in 1996, and the concern is that operations such as Eurofresh will eventually be forced to shut down.
“I would like a resolution of support for the greenhouse growers in our county and the state. There are 100 jobs in Navajo County that are impacted by this. This is a $200 million a year impact to Navajo County, which is in desperate need of jobs and can’t afford to lose any,” stated Allen.
The resolution, which received unanimous support from the board, states that the agreement should include standards for greenhouse grown labeling and that those standards by definition meet those that apply in the North American marketplace, which includes Arizona. They also want an increase in the price level, and for the dumping of large quantities of underpriced tomatoes into the U.S. market to stop.
A final decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the agreement is expected by late April.
In other action Jan. 8, the board:
* Authorized the cancellation of the election for the White Mountain Lake Special Road District and Misty Mountain Domestic Water Improvement District, both part of the Timberland Acres Special Road District; and appointing the candidate(s) or deeming the position vacant.
* Selected by blind draw Cynthia H. Williams as a precinct committeeman for Pinedale. Williams tied for the position with Gary L. Williams, and it is required that ties be broken by a blind draw by the Board of Supervisors.
* Approved contract renewals between the Navajo County Health Services District and the Arizona Department of Health Services for service contracts for the treatment and education of sexually transmitted dis-eases in the amount of $6,355, effective from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2013, and the HIV Prevention Program in the amount of $7,770, effective from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2017.
* Authorized a facility use agreement between the Ganado School District and the Navajo County Public Health Services District for former classroom space of 1,584 square feet to be used as office space from Dec. 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, for $729 per month.
* Approved a performance agreement with Mimi Hurtado Consulting for administrative duties as part of the Workforce Investment Act staff in the amount of $4,000 for one year.
* Awarded a $91,650 contract to Johnson Walzer and Associates for jail support services addition and re-model architectural construction administration services.
* Approved a one-year professional services contract with Mary Lou Tobin for consultant programming services in the amount of $50 per hour as needed, to expire Jan. 7, 2014.
* Approved a memorandum of understanding between Navajo County and the Hardrock Chapter, with the chapter to pay $10,000 for the crushing expense associated with Red Dog Phase II road graveling.
* Approved spending no more than $9,967.68 from District V Special Road Funds for the Cibecue Community Street Lighting project
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By Linda Kor