By Bartholomew D. Sullivan
WASHINGTON – Efforts to protect domestic lemons — Ventura County’s second most valuable crop after strawberries — failed this week when the House Rules Committee decided an amendment preventing Argentine lemon imports did not belong in a massive spending bill.
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, has been trying to derail a decision made last year by the Obama administration to resume imports of the cheaper South American lemon from the world’s largest lemon-producing country. California grows 92 percent of domestic lemons.
An analysis of the proposal to lift the ban indicated that, if the United States imported 18 metric tons of Argentine lemons, the price of U.S. lemons would decline 2 to 4 percent, saving consumers between $12.2 and $25 million. After freezing all Obama administration rules for 60 days after taking office, the Trump administration allowed the ban, in effect since 2001, to be lifted in May.
The House is considering a mammoth bill to fund government operations for the year beginning Oct. 1. As part of the process, the Rules Committee has considered hundreds of amendments and has ruled 118 “in order,” or germane for members to consider in floor votes. Brownley’s lemon amendment was among those rejected.
“Ventura County grows almost 40 percent of the nation’s lemons, and the lemon industry employs thousands of individuals in Ventura County and throughout California,” Brownley said Wednesday.
“Given how often the Trump Administration and House Republicans claim they are focused on protecting American jobs, it is deeply disturbing that House Republicans refused to consider my amendment that would slow down the import of Argentine lemons into the United States,” she added.
“The influx of Argentine lemons to the United States will not only have an immediate impact on California’s economy, the long-term effects could be catastrophic because Argentina does not have an inspection regime in place to prevent the spread of invasive pests and diseases. I am disappointed in the House Republicans’ decision, but I will keep fighting to protect our lemon industry.”