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Florida Farmers Say Their Concerns Transcend Party Politics

Nov 5, 2018
Originally published on November 5, 2018 6:48 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, NPR reporters, including Ailsa and me, have been out talking to voters around the country. And we're going to hear now from farmers in southern Florida. Some of them told NPR's Kelsey Snell about their worries, which they say transcend party politics.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: By Election Day, the iconic farms of America's Midwest are turning brown. But in southern Florida, the sun is shining. The tomatoes are turning red, and Kern Carpenter is worrying about NAFTA.

KERN CARPENTER: I'm a third-generation tomato grower in Homestead, Fla. We basically feed the country for six months out of the year and have for many, many years. And that's going to come to an end if something is not done with the NAFTA deal with Mexico because they're going to put us all out of business.

SNELL: Carpenter was one of about a dozen growers who came out to a bean farm about an hour south of Miami because they're really worried that they're getting left out of President Trump's new NAFTA deal. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Carlos Curbelo, two Republicans who represent this area, were here to listen as grower after grower said the trade deal would fall short.

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MARCO RUBIO: We don't mind competing with Mexico on farming, but it has to be fair.

SNELL: The farmers here grow specialty crops, things like fruits and vegetables that need to be picked by hand. That's expensive, and they're competing against farmers in Mexico who are subsidized and who pay their workers less. Rubio and Curbelo agree that Trump's deal isn't good enough for Florida farmers. And the uncertain future is weighing on Carpenter's mind more than any other political issue this year.

CARPENTER: The wall and all this other stuff is nothing compared to what the NAFTA thing would do to this country if you get to where you can't feed yourself.

SNELL: Carpenter says he's a political guy. He's a Republican, and he votes every single election. But the new NAFTA agreement doesn't protect him the way he thought it would. He's not alone. Tommy Vick is a younger grower, and he has similar fears. He's a conservative, but he's also worried that America is too divided and that it's making it hard for people to reach real solutions on problems like trade that are more than just political.

TOMMY VICK: End of day, we're all in this together. And if we don't - if we fight each other and don't fight together, we're never going to win.

SNELL: Vick is worried about incidents like the pipe bombs that were recently mailed to politicians by a man who lived not far from here. And he hopes that after the election, people will find a way to come together. Kelsey Snell, NPR News, Homestead, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.