IN Florida, citrus growers say their industry will be wiped out.
In Washington state, apple growers see an opportunity both golden
and delicious. California farmer Jim Roberts, boot-deep in baby
carrots here, is both hopeful and anxious.
Down on the American farm, the proposed free trade agreement with
Mexico is producing a salad of mixed feelings.
The possibility of closer integration of the US economy with
Mexico's has stirred concern in the United States about everything
from lost jobs in Detroit to trans-border pollution. But in few
segments of American life are the emotions and questions running
deeper than in agriculture.
"If Mexico is given duty-free entry into the US, Florida orange
juice will be but a memory," says Dan Gunter, head of the Florida
Department of Citrus.
"I think we can compete," says Mr. Roberts, vegetable grower and
part owner of the Underwood Ranch here.
Last week, Congress gave the President the go-ahead to negotiate
the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico. But the
lobbying on the pact has just begun. Special interests of all kinds
- including farmers - are now trying to shape the contours of any
union between the US, Mexico, and Canada.
Farmers worry about everything from cheap imports, to patent
rights on new hybrids, to trucking regulations - underscoring the
complexity of linking disparate economies and the uneven
consequences it could bring.
"We won't support the pact if our conditions aren't met," says
Cher Watte, trade specialist at the California Farm Bureau
Many trade barriers between the US and Mexico have already been
dropped over the past decade. Mexican farm exports to the US rose
from $1 billion in 1980 to $2.3 billion in 1989. While the flow of
US foodstuffs to Mexico grew more slowly, the US enjoyed a $3.3
billion net surplus in trade. Mexico is now the US's third largest
farm export market.
The General Accounting Office, in a recent study, said the
increased agricultural trade has "benefited both countries." The
question now is whether removal of remaining barriers would be a
help or hindrance.
Loosening of licensing and other restrictions, analysts say, are
likely to benefit dairy, apple, small pear, and poultry producers.
More soybeans and grains are also expected to flow south.
"Mexico has the potential to be our top foreign market," says Amy
Hedeen of the Washington Apple Commission. …