Chinese tariffs expected to impact UT farmers

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – China announced it will put tariffs on U.S. agriculture products such as pork, nuts and certain fruits. With agriculture being a multi-billion dollar a year business in Utah, several farmers are expected to take a hit.

Pork was given the highest tariff at 25 percent. While nuts and fruits will be at 15 percent. Utah is currently the 16th largest pork producer in the country totaling around $141 million. Around 15 percent of that goes to China.

Utah exports more than $100 million of agricultural products to China each year. Jack Wilbur of the State Department of Agriculture and Food worries about what products could be next.

“Obviously the $20 million of pork is a big deal, but there is still a lot of product at risk,” said Wilbur.

Todd Ballard is the owner of the Ballard Hog Farm in Cache County. He was shocked at the tariff because of what it would mean for Chinese consumers.

“I was a little surprised they would issue those tariffs because that’s going to put the crimp on them as far as the price goes for their consumers,” said Ballard.

Ballard said unlike some farmers, he contracts prices months in advance so he isn’t impacted by sudden fluctuations. He’s hopeful these tariffs are only temporarily, but said they could hurt farmers’ bottom lines if they stay in place.

“If it turns into several months of tariffs, then yeah there will be some producers you know because it’s their livelihood and the price will go down,” said Ballard.

Even farmers who don’t export to China will see an impact. With less expected to be sold there, the excess product will flood other markets. Creating more supply without demand makes the price drop.

Ballard said futures already dropped 10 percent. He knows there isn’t much he can do about it. Although he said in this global economy other events like floods or droughts have caused similar fluctuations.

“So we just do the best thing we can, produce really good product and hope they can resolve it,” said Ballard.

State officials said while they will urge for the issue to be resolved. For now, they plan to try and help farmers where they can.

“Helping them navigate it and try to find additional markets is going to be one of the best things that we can do,” said Wilbur.

The impact of the tariffs on fruits and nuts isn’t expected to hit Utah farmers as hard.

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