Washington farmers need tariff relief | Brunell

The good news is Washington’s cherry crop is projected to be as good as 2018’s.

And the bad news? Absent tariff relief from the ongoing, U.S.-China trade tiff, a key market will remain limited.

When China’s tariff jumped from 10 percent to 50 percent last July, right in the middle of the harvest, exports to China fell from their most profitable to the pits, Fox News reported. “Growers in Washington state, by far the largest producer of sweet cherries in the U.S., saw their bumper crop lose $86 million in value overnight.”

For example, Washington Fruit and Produce Company in Yakima watched exports plunge 54 percent after the tariffs were raised. “It’s made it extra painful because Chinese consumers pay a premium for American produce,” Fox News added.

U.S. farmers are hopeful negotiations bring relief soon. Overall, China exported $505 billion in goods to the U.S., and U.S. companies exported $135 billion in goods to China in 2017. The White House wants to correct this trade imbalance and protect intellectual property.

Cherries are Washington’s bell whether crop. Unlike apples, potatoes and wheat, they cannot be stored for months; the window between harvest and sale is only a few weeks.

China is our second largest buyer behind Canada. It accounts for more than a quarter of our cherry exports. South Korea and Taiwan combined import another 25 percent.

A recent Capital Press report found our state’s cherry farmers lost $106 million last year because of China’s retaliatory duties.

B.J. Thurlby of the Northwest Cherry Growers told the Capital Press: “Trade data indicates that Northwest growers retailed 1.7 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries to China last year, a figure which reflected a drop of nearly 50 percent from 2017 when three million boxes were sold.”

Meanwhile, Turkey, the world’s largest cherry producer, is expanding its shipments into China. Turkey’s biggest traditional markets have been Russia and Germany. Chile, the world’s sixth largest grower, which produces a quarter of what the U.S. does, is increasing its deliveries to China, too. Neither country is subject to Chinese tariffs.

Thousands of Washington farmers who grow apples, cherries, pears and wheat now find themselves on the front lines of a battle between the two largest economies in the world, The Seattle Times reporter Derek Hall wrote last July.

Wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest have also been smacked by the trade dispute. China bought 300,000 metric tons of soft wheat from the Pacific Northwest in 2017, worth about $60 million, but as soon as the threat of tariffs surfaced, Chinese customers stopped buying.

Our state’s agriculture sector exports about 30 percent of its products. Other top Washington fruit crops targeted by China include apples and pears. In 2017 China bought about $50 million worth of apples and $1.5 million in pears.

New export markets for Washington agriculture products take time to develop, so growers fight hard to keep existing customers. For example, the Northwest Cherry Growers Commission plans to invest more than a half-million dollars into promoting buyer-incentives in China this spring.

Northwest growers are also eyeing India as a potential market, but exporters remain apprehensive because India’s importers want shipments of cherries sent by boat rather than flown, which doesn’t work well with fumigation requirements, the Capital Press reports.

According to U.S. News, nearly a quarter of our state’s exports (more than $18 billion) went to China last year, making Washington by far and away America’s biggest exporter to the Chinese.

Washington’s $49 billion food and agriculture industry employs 140,000 people. Thirteen percent of the state’s economy comes from agriculture. Failure to end this trade war will impact all Washingtonians.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

How using a face mask to cover my Asian face could put me in danger

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Grocery store staff are working hard to keep the shelves stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo
Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Coronavirus testing telecommuting effectiveness

Employers offering a work from home option has grown by 40 percent in the past 5 years

Spring cleaning made easy – the fresh and healthy way

By Hannah Scholes, Waste Management, for the Auburn Reporter You’ve made up… Continue reading

Legislative session ends with plenty of hits and misses

OLYMPIA — The 2020 regular legislative session is coming to a close.… Continue reading

As the deadline nears, state lawmakers face a few challenges

As state lawmakers in Olympia enter the final turn of the 2020… Continue reading

Brunell’s treatise on Lower Snake River dams is flooded with falsehoods

Don Brunell’s recent column, “Dams are the Northwest’s Flood Busters” (Jan. 24,… Continue reading

This Boeing deal could have ‘clawbacks’ in the ‘snap-back’

The company wants a tax break temporarily repealed. Some don’t want to give it back without new conditions.

Colorado River water problems worsening

Last week, we visited the Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona.… Continue reading

Cheers for the American Legion

The 2020 race for the White House is heating. It’s shaping up… Continue reading

COURTESY PHOTO, MultiCare
Black History Month: highlighting health disparities

By MultiCare Health System February is Black History Month, a time to… Continue reading