As expected, China has responded to President Trump’s tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods. The duties imposed on Chinese steel and aluminum have caused Beijing to retaliate with sweeping tariffs of its own, and American agriculture is a big target: There’s a 25 percent tax on American pork and fruit, and a 15 percent tax on apples and almonds. The food and agriculture industries have been sweating the Trump tariff’s repercussions for a while — pricier aluminum could destroy 20,000 beer jobs alone, brewers claim. But the Chinese government’s counterblow is particularly unwelcome for American farmers, given the already historic-low prices for their products.
Many analysts predict that the immediate economic impact won’t be serious, yet, but China’s tariffs target crops and livestock, so ag workers justifiably fear that they’d be the first casualty of a bona fide trade war, if other countries jump in with their own trade barriers. According to the Associated Press, U.S. farmers shipped the Chinese almost $20 billion worth of food in 2017, and China is technically the third-biggest market (over $1 billion a year) for American pork.
Iowa is America’s top pork producer, and already some estimate that 10 percent of the state’s farms will probably fail in the coming year. Workers have begun comparing the situation to the 1980s farm crisis, the industry’s worst period since the Great Depression. Trump’s tariffs haven’t thrilled a lot of farmworkers in the state — the Iowa Soybean Association, in fact, just attacked them as an “immediate and grave threat” to the industry, arguing, “No winners emerge from a trade war and that’s particularly true when it involves food and nutrition.”
Trump, of course, ran on a platform of “saving” America’s farms, yet the situation looks increasingly bleak for farmers: Besides the tariffs, little has been done to help declining crop prices, and according to a recent NPR report, the “outlook for the next year is so bleak, it’s heightening worries — especially in the Northeast — about farmer suicides.”