Local farmers concerned about China’s proposed tariffs

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Local farmers expressed concern Wednesday over China’s proposed tariffs on U.S. goods, including soybeans, corn, beef and whiskey. China announced plans to levy the tariffs Tuesday night.

U.S. import duties on Chinese aluminum and steel were announced in March. In response, China placed tariffs on U.S. pork, tree nuts and other products. Those tariffs went into effect Monday.

Tuesday night, China announced plans to levy a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of additional U.S. goods, but the Commerce Ministry said implementation of the tariffs would be determined by the implementation date of U.S. tariffs on Chinese products.

Alabama farmers say they are watching the situation closely as planting season begins.

“The American farmer is the best in the world. And because we’re the best, a lot of our stuff goes to a lot of different countries. And they’re an easy target from those other countries for tariffs or other punitive action when they’re trying to needle back at the United States. That’s frustrating,” said Ben Haynes, a partner at Haynes Farms in Fairview, Alabama.

Haynes is a fifth generation farmer. His operation produces beef cattle, corn, wheat and beans, and the income provides for three families.

“Farm income is significantly lower in 2018 than just a few years ago, even prior to any talk of tariffs or anything like that,” he said.

While news of the possible tariffs is concerning, he said in the short term it won’t change much.

“Right now they’re still proposals,” he said. “Often [agriculture] products are sort of used as the pawn when we renegotiate or negotiate these trade deals.”

He explained that a lot of the product Haynes Farms will turn this year is already sold. Even moving forward, Haynes says risk is not a new concept for farmers, and this is no different.

“It’s not something that we can control obviously, but we as farmers are used to a lot of things that we can’t control. We’re exposed to a lot of risk,” said Haynes.

Haynes said he trusts the Trump administration, and ultimately, he believes things will work out better than they were before.

“I’m confident that when it’s all said and done we’re going to have another victory of a trade deal with this China situation,” he said.

In a statement provided to CBS 42, the president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, Jimmy Parnell, said, “We are communicating with Congress and President Trump’s administration about the effect these tariffs would have on Alabama farmers. We encourage them to reach a deal that’s good for all sectors of the U.S. economy.”

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