Ag Today March 5, 2018

Trade war could spark food fight, California growers fear

By GEOFFREY MOHAN
MAR 02, 2018 | 11:25 AM

Steel and aluminum may be the intended quarry of a trade war that President Trump has said would be “good” for the U.S. economy, but the casualties of the conflict could be food, agricultural economists warn.

China, the European Union, Mexico, Canada and other trading partners have sent strong signals that they may retaliate if Trump succeeds in imposing stiff tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.

Each of those trading partners is a major buyer of U.S. agricultural goods, which amass a surplus of about $21 billion from worldwide trade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We could be in a really nasty trade spat, and we’ve seen that agriculture is usually a big target,” said Josh Rolph, manager of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “We are greatly concerned.”

The wheat industry, which has pushed for more open international markets, blasted the proposal Friday. “It is dismaying that the voices of farmers and many other industries were ignored in favor of an industry that is already among the most protected in the country,” a joint statement from the National Assn. of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates said.

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