Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reconsider a recent decision to import Chinese citrus, in light of the COVID-19 coverup.
The Georgia lawmaker sent a letter to Undersecretary Greg Ibach at the USDA Monday, expressing his concerns about the import of unlabeled citrus from the Chinese government as their dishonest handling of the pandemic has devasted the U.S. economy.
Collins wrote on Twitter today, “China’s coverup of COVID-19 and their continued lies about its origin have shown us all first-hand that we cannot trust the word of the Chinese government. That is why I am calling for USDA to reconsider the United States allowing citrus imports from China.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) April 14 authorized the import of five varieties of citrus fruit from China. APHIS scientists determined that pummelo, Nanfeng honey mandarin, Ponkan, sweet orange, and Satsuma mandarin fruit from China are safe for import to the United States after “analysis.”
“I am concerned with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s recent decision to authorize the importation of fresh citrus from China,” wrote Collins. “While I understand that these regulations have been in progress for some time in connection with foreign trade agreements, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all first-hand that we cannot trust the word of the Chinese government.”
The USDA says that a series of measures are taken by growers, packers, and shippers to minimize the risk of pests before import, but Collins suggests that the Chinese government does not tell the truth and should not be trusted. The representative said that the United States could not trust that China will follow the agreed-upon protocol for checking produce.
“This approval specifically relies on the Chinese government to enforce protocols for eliminating the risk that imported Chinese citrus could carry plant pests and other quarantined species,” Collins wrote.
“As China’s early coverup of the COVID-19 outbreak and their continued lies about its origin have proven, the Chinese government cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of public health. As such, I ask that you reconsider permitting imports of Chinese citrus and, at a minimum, put systems in place to independently verify the safety of any citrus imported from China.”
The representative was also concerned that the import from China would adversely impact the U.S. produce market, at a time when the economy is suffering.
Collins shared his concern for the USDA Agriculture Market Service’s recent announcement that it would “temporarily waive Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).”
”This announcement may harm demand for American products,” wrote Collins. “Additionally, I worry that a lack of enforcement could be exploited by some retailers seeking to disguise imported commodities as domestic commodities. In light of these concerns, I ask that you consider narrowing the waiver to only apply to commodities for which demand exceeds the domestic supply.”
Collins wants the USDA to prioritize U.S. farmers as they are on the front-lines working for the health of the American people.
“During this unprecedented time, it is critical that agencies and elected officials work together to protect and uplift America’s hardworking farmers who continue to work tirelessly to put food on our tables,” said Collins.
To support American farmers during the pandemic, President Trump announced a $19 billion-dollar coronavirus relief plan for farmers and ranchers on April 17. Included in the project are likely to be both direct payments to individuals and a program to purchase food from U.S. farmers and ranchers to be distributed throughout the U.S. through food banks.