Trade wars hit state’s cherry growers hard | Brunell

Hopefully, the trade dispute will be resolved before the apple and wheat harvest are completed this fall

Last April, Washington wheat, apple and cherry growers hoped U.S. and China trade negotiators would resolve differences and prevent imposition of damaging tariffs on our state’s leading crops. Unfortunately, that did not happened and the costs are adding up.

Thousands of Washington farmers now find themselves on the front lines of a battle between the two largest economies in the world.

Here’s what has happened so far.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese imports to punish China for its alleged predatory tactics toward American technology companies. China is notorious for ripping off U.S. companies that develop high-tech products and then manufactures cheap copies, which dramatically undercut our products on worldwide markets.

China swiftly responded with tariffs on 128 American products, including fruit, pork and metal pipes, in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. While many aerospace workers in the Puget Sound area breathed a sigh of relief because Boeing aircraft was not included in China’s retaliation, that wasn’t the case for our state’s farmers.

With the state’s cherry harvest in, the financial damages from the trade dispute for cherries alone is estimated at $86 million. A bipartisan group from our state’s congressional delegation is asking the federal government to offset losses from trade wars during the 2018 season.

President Trump set aside $12 billion in short-term federal relief to assist U.S. farmers and companies adversely impacted by the negotiations. Democrat U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Republican Congressmen Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert wrote to the Dept. of Agriculture requesting the aid.

Washington’s agriculture community is caught in the cross-fire of the “tariff bumping” between the United States and China and the cherry crop is particularly vulnerable. China is the top export market for sweet cherries grown in the state.

Unfortunately, agriculture products, unlike steel and aluminum, are perishable. Sweet cherries have the shortest growing season of any tree fruit. Cherry picking typically starts at beginning of May and ends by the middle of August. Sweet cherries must reach intended markets immediately. Unlike apples and wheat, cherries cannot be stored for shipping later in the year.

Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, estimated that $130 million worth of Pacific Northwest cherries went to China last year. That is 11 percent of the total crop.

The 25 percent tariff increase that China has now levied on U.S. cherries was an unexpected twist for 1,400 growers in Washington. Those growers built their production around previously negotiated trade pacts.

Unfortunately, tariff bumping may not be over. Trump is considering $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese products. It invites additional retaliation from China which could impact other Washington businesses.

Hopefully, the trade dispute will be resolved before the apple and wheat harvest are completed this fall.

Trade negotiations are always sensitive and the results never please everyone. It is a give and take process which traditionally crawls along at a snail’s pace.

For example, when the U.S.-South Korea trade deal was signed in 2008, it was negotiated over several years. In the end, new markets for Washington State beef, cherries and wines were opened; however, opponents point out the deal also opened greater access to American markets for Korean autos.

While the President has justifiable concerns over current trade agreements and is pushing hard for a better deal, it would be wise to slow down and consider the collateral damage which is occurring.

Washington’s cherries are the first to feel the adverse impact, but may not be the last.

Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, after over 25 years as its CEO and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at TheBrunells@msn.com.

More in Opinion

Seeking compromise on data privacy, Dems found controversy

Microsoft, Amazon and Comcast got invited to to help craft language but consumer groups did not

There’s enough money to fund Auburn schools without increasing property taxes

By Liv Finne, Washington Policy Center, for the Auburn Reporter For years,… Continue reading

Lawmakers need to re-examine budget before adjourning

Before lawmakers wrap up their work in Olympia, they should reexamine their… Continue reading

Inconvenient truth about batteries | Brunell

Each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries constituting 180,000… Continue reading

Is a low-carbon fuel standard running out of political gas?

OLYMPIA — If the Democrat-controlled Legislature fails to pass a low-carbon fuel… Continue reading

Embrace the sharing economy for Earth Day

By Hannah Scholes, Waste Management, for the Auburn Reporter The sharing economy… Continue reading

Darker side of renewables | Brunell

Before our country, in haste, dives totally into renewable energy, we must… Continue reading

Democrats are in charge, but GOP is helping steer the debate

Republicans see their role as fixing or foiling bad bills. Democrats’ tax bills are their new target

Teaching, training tomorrow’s leaders, workers

Legislature urged to fully fund our community and technical colleges

Oil companies betting on electric technology | Brunell

Across the pond, London-based BP and Netherlands-headquartered Shell are looking to invest… Continue reading

Cascade Water Alliance turns 20, continues to run strong

By John Stokes, chair, Cascade Water Alliance, for the Auburn Reporter Cascade… Continue reading

What tax-raising idea will win out in March budget madness?

Democrats, who control the House and Senate, are set to release spending plans and revenue packages