Buy raspberries in January? Thank NAFTA.

Raspberries at the Price Chopper in Canton come from Mexico. ¬°Gracias, NAFTA! Photo: David Sommerstein

Raspberries at the Price Chopper in Canton come from Mexico. ¬°Gracias, NAFTA! Photo: David Sommerstein

NPR has a terrific series going on to start 2014 looking at the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement 20 years after it took effect. How the free trade pact affected labor, immigration, wages, the environment, and much more. All the stories are worth a read/listen.

Ted Robbins reports from Arizona on how the produce aisle's cornucopia today is largely a product of NAFTA and the accessibility of Mexican produce:

There are several reasons why, explains Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc., a large produce importer and distributorship in Nogales, Ariz.

First, NAFTA eliminated tariffs. Cantaloupes, for instance, used to have a 35 percent tax on them when they crossed the border. No tariffs meant lower prices.

Second, NAFTA encouraged investment. So companies like Chamberlain's have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Mexican farms. That has helped create year-round supply and demand for U.S. and Canadian customers.

"Twenty years ago, in tomato items alone, you did not have 365-day distribution from Mexico to the United States," he says. "And now … every single day of the year, you will find Mexican tomatoes in the U.S. market."

You like peppers after the snow flies? Thank NAFTA, too! Photo: David Sommerstein.

You like peppers after the snow flies? Thank NAFTA, too! Photo: David Sommerstein.

My question for you is this: do you buy fresh strawberries and green beans in January? (I just bought both yesterday.) Or do you stick to dry and frozen fruits and veggies until spring rolls around? How committed are you to "eating local" when there's nothing growing out there for months?

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3 Comments

  1. Buy?? We still have thirty pounds of raspberries in the freezer, along with fresh frozen tomatoes, greens, beans, and edamame. There's cider, both sweet and hard, ans frozen sauces to fill any need. The pantry has hundreds of jars of last summers goodness,every kind of pickle imaginable, and a few brews, beverages, and drinks. There is a balance between eating fresh foods and watching one's carbon footprint, and I come down on the side of trying always to keep it close to home.

    • Michael, what do you think about eating things you simply can't grow here – avocados, pomegranates, etc? Just curious. I have fallen in love with pomegranates, and I know I have our global corporate agriculture system to thank for that.

  2. Actually, no thanks.
    In the effort to keep everything in the produce section available year-round, the taste has gone down.
    The problem goes further than imports. I haven't had a delicious peach or pear in years.

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