Trade war with China hits close to home for Oregon farmers

According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, China accounts for a significant portion of the state’s agricultural exports.

Posted: Aug 7, 2019 6:04 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- After China’s announcement that it would be halting the purchase of United States agricultural goods on Tuesday, local farmers are looking for answers about what could happen to their crops.

According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, China accounts for a significant portion of Oregon’s agricultural exports. Approximately 40 percent of the state’s crops are exported internationally, with the top markets being Japan, South Korea, Canada and China. In 2017, $290 million in agricultural exports went to China. In 2018, Oregon pulled in a total of $1.8 billion in total agricultural exports, they said.

The latest developments in the trade war began when President Trump vowed to impose a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion worth of imports from China last week. The country responded by devaluing its currency in order to offset the tariffs, as well as halting the purchases of American agricultural goods.

“When you have $290 million going into a country facing potential tariffs, we know there will be an impact. We don't know the severity of the impact or where producers can go to," said Oregon Farm Bureau Director of National Affairs Gail Greenman.

Oregon commodities like hazelnuts, grass seeds and wheat could be impacted without Chinese exports. 

Fourth-generation grass seed farmer Nick Bowers said despite the concerns, he's optimistic about the economic outlook for his crop. 

"With President Trump fighting back a little bit, I believe that it's very possible that the Chinese will ease up with some of the restrictions they have for imports from the United States," he said. 

KEZI 9 News also spoke to farmers who asked not to be identified but were concerned short-term impacts could make this harvest a difficult one to survive.

According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon leads production in nine different commodities, and when the state's industry is under stress, the impacts ripple out.

"Our agricultural industry and our exports are critical not only to Oregonians and Americans but to those around the world," Greenman said.

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