Some farmers worried over possible Chinese tariffs

CBS Newspath

WASHINGTON —Keith Schoettmer tends to his newborn pigs just like any other day, but lately there’s been a certain anxiety that comes along with it.

“Do you feel squeezed?”

“Well certainly. Any time we feel that there’s going to be a disruption in exports, we’re gonna feel squeezed.”

He’s talking about the possible 25-percent Chinese tariff on American pork. It’s estimated to impact nearly 10 percent of all pork exports.

Since 2000, the nation has been one of the world’s top five pork exports and China gets about nine percent of the five billion pounds America sends abroad.

Last year, the United States exported $1.1 billion worth of pork to China. It’s a business that supports about 500,000 jobs in mostly rural America.

“If we had the opportunity to talk to President Trump, we would just reiterate just how vitally important the exports are to our industry,” he added.

But the discomfort over talk of a trade war with China extends far beyond Schoettmer’s Tipton, Indiana spread. The Chinese have also announced new tariffs on American soybeans, with potentially even graver financial consequences for farmers. The American Soybean Association said China is the largest consumer of the U.S. crop, buying about a third of it every year.

That number includes about a quarter of all the soybeans grown in Illinois.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, suggested the tariffs on  China are potentially just a negotiating ploy. The White House has even said they are opening the door for negotiations with Beijing.

There is no hard start date set for any of these tariffs — right now they remain just threats.

But if they do move forward, Schoettmer said it will have an impact.

“I don’t think there’s any segment of our industry that will escape some financial hard times if we do indeed see a diminished export market.”