Farm groups fear steel, aluminum tariffs may lead to retaliatory tactics
Farmers for Free Trade and the American Soybean Association have expressed concern that the imposition of higher tariffs on steel and aluminum could lead China and other countries to retaliate by making it more difficult and expensive for U.S. agricultural products to enter their countries.
After Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released an investigative report recommending higher tariffs on steel and aluminum to protect the U.S. industries, Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, said, “Everyone agrees we need to hold our trading partners accountable, but taking unilateral action to raise tariffs often comes with harmful unintended consequences. History shows those consequences are most often paid by American farmers. If the president follows through on these tariffs it could escalate trade tensions rather than resolve them, putting U.S. agricultural exports in the cross-hairs.“
“The agriculture sector knows from experience that our ag exports are the first to be hit by retaliation,” Kuehl said. “Whether it’s our chickens in retaliation for tariffs on Chinese tires, or U.S. apples and wine exports as a result of a Mexican trucking dispute, historically, agriculture always has the biggest target on its back.”
“The fact that China just targeted U.S. sorghum is only the most recent example,” he said. “We urge the president to consider the very real price our farmers and ranchers would end up paying if we continue to escalate back and forth reprisals that close off global markets.”
Farmers for Free Trade is co-chaired by former Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer noted that the United States now exports one-third of its soybeans to China at a value of $14 billion.
“Today’s news from the Commerce Department is very concerning for soybean farmers,” Heisdorffer said.
“China is not only our largest customer, it purchases more than all our other customers combined. Add to that the sobering fact that our capable competitors in Brazil and Argentina are all too happy to pick up whatever slack we leave in supplying the Chinese market, and these potential tariffs have the potential to make life very hard for soybean farmers.“
“In earlier conversations about potential tariffs under Section 232, the Chinese specifically identified U.S. soybeans as a target for retaliation, and the barriers that retaliation would create will add significant further injury to an already-hobbled farm economy,” Heisdorffer said.
“Prices are down 40 percent and farm income is down 50 percent, and we simply can’t afford for those numbers to get worse. Soybean farmers look to the White House to move forward with a China strategy that strengthens the competitiveness of our domestic industries while at the same time growing our export opportunities.”
–The Hagstrom Report