Farm Bureau: China’s threat of tariffs poses big risk for Colorado farmers

Imported nuts from the United States are displayed at a supermarket in Beijing, Friday, March 23, 2018. China announced a $3 billion list of U.S. goods including pork, apples and steel pipe on Friday that it said may be hit with higher tariffs in a spiraling trade dispute with President Donald Trump that companies and investors worry could depress global commerce. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

DENVER — If China jacks up its tariffs on U.S. exports in retaliation to President Trump’s hikes on steel and aluminum, Colorado farmers, ranchers and consumers will pay a price, according to the Colorado Farm Bureau.

China on Friday announced 128 U.S. products. Fresh and dried fruits, nuts and wine exports face a 15 percent levy. Pork and pork product producer would have to pay 25 percent. The tariffs could take effect as soon as March 31.

On Thursday Trump announced tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports and investment restrictions as part of a U.S. pushback in a trade dispute over intellectual property theft.

The tariffs on agriculture would “stunt markets” for Colorado products, according to the state’s largest organization for farmers and ranchers.

“Commodity prices, already soft due to oversupply will be pushed ever lower,” Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said in a statement. “These tariffs will hit our producers particularly hard.”

The Colorado Farm Bureau is afraid soybeans, sorghum and beef could join the list if the U.S. and China cannot avoid a trade war.

About 6 percent of Colorado’s farm and ranch exports — mostly beef products — go to China, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Lost business or slowing growth in those products is not good news for the ag industry.

“The impacts are bigger than just those items listed for penalties by China,” Shawcroft said. “Colorado produces a lot of feed for pork and these kinds of secondary markets will also be hit hard. The long-term impact on agriculture is bigger than on one specific commodity. American farmers export more than 20 percent of their production, and these tariffs threaten the fragile health of the entire agriculture industry.”

The Farm Bureau said income from farm commodities has fallen by about 50 percent the last four years “and retaliation by trade partners makes the situation even worse.”

The association also is concerned about how Trump’s potential trade war could affect the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, where Coloradans also have money in the game.

“The agreement is a huge positive for Colorado agriculture, and it’s most valuable export, beef,” the Farm Bureau said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Anything that could negatively impact agriculture’s position in a renegotiated NAFTA will further damage farm finances across the state.”

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