Kern concerns on Trump trade battle

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Update: The original article stated last year China had committed to buy 209 million pounds of almonds from California growers and now has only committed to 80 million pounds. The article has been changed to clarify worldwide markets had committed to buy 209 million pounds last year and now has only committed to 80 million pounds.

Kern farmers say the impacts of intensifying international tariff dialogues are beginning to hit home. 

Holly King has been in the almond industry in Kern for about 25 years.

But King, who chairs California’s Almond Board, is concerned.

“We look at ourselves as being collateral damage,” said King.

The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on several countries in recent months saying the United States has been treated unfairly on trade.

But countries like China are retaliating with tariffs of their own, targeting crops that are huge in Kern County with an extra 25% duty.

“The major commodities affected in Kern County as far as China exports are almonds, pistachios, citrus as a whole, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, cotton, blueberries. Those are the biggest commodities that would be affected,” explained Cerise Montanio, Deputy Director at the Kern County Department of Agriculture.

Those commodities alone are valued at $4.7 billion in Kern, according to the KCDA.

But how important are outside customers like China, Spain and India?

“Significantly important because you figure 70 percent of our crop goes for export,” responded King.

King explained at this time last year, markets across the globe had already committed to buy 209 million pounds of almonds from California ahead of the harvest.

This year amid trade tension, buyers have only committed to 80 million pounds so far argues King. 

“That’s a hardcore example of how it’s impacting us here on the ground,” said King, who argues the impact touches more than just growers.

“It’s the people that make up the communities in California and especially in the Central Valley, we create 97 thousand jobs just in the Central Valley and that’s just for growing almonds. 

Farm Bureau Statement:

“The agriculture industry is deeply concerned over all the tariff dialogues as of recently.  Large tariffs put on 2 of our top 5 producing commodities in Kern County, Almonds (#2) and Pistachios (#5).  We are working with our state farm bureau and our local Congressmen to find a way through these extra costs.  We are told this may all be resolved and back to normal trade exchanges by October.” – Executive Director Beatris Sanders.

McCarthy Statement:

“Our community’s contribution to the country and world food market is second-to-none. I have seen firsthand the benefits free trade has provided California’s farmers and ranchers, including in Kern and Tulare Counties.  That is why I am working with the Administration to open more markets for our growers. It should be noted that American products – particularly agriculture products – are some of the safest and most abundant in the world. Reducing U.S. imports through retaliatory measures would have adverse impacts on other country’s economies as well.  Nobody wins with retaliatory measures which is why I would urge our trading partners to come to the table and work with the President and Congress to address trade issues and make a more fair and open trading system.  And, I firmly believe that when Americans are provided a level playing field, we can compete with anyone.

“I remain wholly committed to ensuring our farming and ranching community is operating in the most competitive environment in the country and world. That starts with the Farm Bill that the House just passed this week which includes the promotion of our agricultural products. We will continue to act on legislation that reduces the burdens on our farmers to grow and sell products. In the meantime, I continue to work directly with the Trump administration to shape trade policy that is free and fair for our growers.”

Valadao Statement:

“The retaliatory tariffs that are beginning to impact Central Valley growers are extremely concerning, and, as a result, I have urged the Administration to reverse these tariffs. I will continue working to ensure California farmers have access to international markets so they may remain competitive in selling their products around the world.”

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