Ag Today March 12, 2018

Valley farmers could suffer in trade war over tariffs

BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ – March 09, 2018 04:22 PM

San Joaquin Valley farmers could end up being the big losers if a trade war breaks out over President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Under the president’s plan, a 25 percent tariff would be imposed on steel and 15 percent on aluminum.

But agriculture industry leaders know from past experience that retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products may be coming. And California agriculture could be sitting in the crosshairs.

California’s farm exports totaled $20.59 billion in 2015, with almonds the top exported product at $5.14 billion. Almonds are also Fresno County’s top crop, valued at more than $1 billion.

“This could be a huge issue for agriculture,” said Jim Zion, managing partner of Meridian Growers in Clovis, a grower and marketing company specializing in tree nuts.

Zion said China, Japan and Korea, who will be hit by the tariffs, are major buyers of tree nuts, including almonds and pistachios.

“Those are some of our biggest markets and there is concern about the backlash that may be coming,” Zion said. “It has happened before.”

In 2009, Mexico slapped retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. after federal officials ended a pilot program allowing Mexican trucks on American highways. For California farmers, the tariffs ranged from 10 percent to 45 percent on certain fruits, vegetables and nuts.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials estimated the dispute cost U.S. businesses more than $2 billion. Farm exports to Mexico tumbled 27 percent.

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