Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House to prohibit imports of fresh citrus from China.
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., has introduced the U.S. Citrus Protection Act. The legislation, according to a news release, would prohibit the importation of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China.
“As farmers and ranchers in Florida and across the country are struggling to cope with the decreased demand for their products as a result of the economic shutdowns, more than ever we need to put America first and cannot give foreign entities a competitive advantage,” Steube said in the release.
“Communist China is responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic damages that have impacted our nation’s farmers, and now they are trying to profit off of our hardship.”
Despite consistent long-term opposition from some U.S. citrus leaders, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mid-April approved U.S. imports of Chinese pummelo, nanfeng honey mandarin, ponkan, sweet orange, and satsuma mandarins.
USDA scientists said they believe the Chinese citrus varieties can be safely imported into the U.S. under a systems approach to protect against the introduction of plant pests.
The USDA’s decision sparked opposition from Florida officials.
In an April 21 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called the decision to allow Chinese imports a “misguided policy change,” during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it poses a risk to Florida’s citrus industry and other crops.