Connecting state and local government leaders
States that produce some of these agricultural commodities are pawns in the president's tit-for-tat with Beijing.
President Trump’s tough trade rhetoric and tariffs—and China’s recently announced new actions in response targeting a variety of U.S. goods and agricultural commodities in response—has made some farmers and orchard owners in Washington state’s Yakima Valley uncomfortable and unsure of how impacts might be felt locally.
“Farms being collateral damage in a trade dispute is just not worth it,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell told theYakima Herald-Republic following a meeting on Monday with local agriculture officials.
In the Yakima Valley, the new Chinese tariffs impact locally-grown apples and cherries. How that will translate into lost sales is hard to predict at this point—cherries grown in the Pacific Northwest are in high demand in China, so the blowback may not be so severe. Apples are a different story: “It’s too easy for China to find an alternative supplier for apples,” Desmond O’Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., a consulting firm that tracks tree fruit exporting trends, told the newspaper.
Meanwhile in Iowa, an agricultural product of vital interest when it comes to the Chinese market is pork, now subject to new 25 percent tariffs imposed by Beijing.
The Atlantic recently looked at China's footprint in Iowa's economy:
As the largest exporter of pork and corn in the United States and the number two exporter of soybeans, Iowa’s economy is increasingly propped up by China. Thanks to rising meat consumption and a dearth of arable land, China has a growing appetite for American agricultural products. Fully one in four rows of Iowa soybeans end up in China, meaning that Iowa’s farmers are, essentially, being kept afloat by China’s middle class.
What should farmers—and the state and local economies that depend on them—expect next? That's still somewhat unclear, but keep a careful eye on soybeans.
Anyway, the recent trade actions being traded between the White House and Beijing shouldn't be ignored. “This is significant, real and serious for rural America,” hog farmer Brian Duncan, who is vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, told the Chicago Tribune.
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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.
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