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Trade war catches state’s farmers in a vise

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N.C. State economist Michael Walden recently visited Person County as part of Farm-City Week and offered some interesting statistics that help quantify the scope of agriculture in this state. But they also shed some light on how dangerous the U.S. trade wars have become for farmers in North Carolina and, really, all across the country.

Walden said agriculture is a $90 billion a year industry in North Carolina. A 0.5 percent decline in farm revenue growth means a $45 million hit to farmers and businesses in allied professions.

In an industry that already faces uncertainty – weather, higher supply prices, lower market prices – the retaliatory tariffs other countries have placed on U.S. goods have penalized farmers who did nothing wrong.

It is important to note that most of those tariffs were retaliatory, which is to say they were in response to tariffs placed on foreign goods by the U.S. government.

That gets into an ugly spitting contest over who started what, but the bottom line is one of North Carolina’s longtime, leading industries is suffering in the trade wars. That means real people are suffering. Farmers, the laborers they hire, the companies that provide them with livestock feed or chemicals, tractor dealerships, the ag supply store that provides materials necessary for many routine farm activities – all these groups are feeling the impact of the trade war.

The decidedly isolationist approach being taken in Washington won’t help this country or the people in it very much. Farmers, in particular, depend on export markets to sell their goods. With domestic markets largely saturated with farming commodities and products, the opportunities for growth in the farm sector lie outside the U.S. borders.

But it’ll continue to be difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to access those markets if tariffs smacked on those goods remain in place.

The stalemate between U.S. trade representatives and their international counterparts needs to end, even if we end up with pie in our faces.

Tariffs haven’t been good for the U.S. and in particular, they haven’t been good for farmers.