OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Many kinds of meats, seafood, dairy products, fruits and vegetables are included in the opening tariffs China has places on U.S. exports. One farmer, who has several of those categories destined for tariffs that could cause Chinese consumers to quit buying, is very worried.
Though China's retaliatory tariffs against the United States are going to hit the American heartland for sure, it's going to hit California just as hard.
The Rominger family has farmed Yolo County's lands for 150 years. They raise a wide variety of farm products to hedge against crop diseases, changing tastes, changing market conditions and, now, heavy tariffs.
"When you look at trade with other countries, agriculture is the bright spot. This is where we have a trade surplus," said Bruce Rominger, who talked about this and we report in his own words. "Agriculture in the United States is so advanced and so efficient, that we can compete with anybody. So, this is gonna be a huge hit if these tariffs drop the price of some of our commodities, you know, it could put some farmers out of business.”
The Chinese tariffs are targeted to do the maximum initial damage. "I think they really hit the big ones when you look at all the pork they're talking about and the other products. It's these segments of U.S. agriculture that are gonna be hit really hard. We had a somewhat stable trading system. We had a level of trust even though we didn't like it. I'm not saying we had fair trade deals before. I'm not saying we shouldn't negotiate really hard to improve those. But, the turmoil that's being thrown into it now is very scary and it's gonna hurt people. I'm not real optimistic that our government will handle this correctly. I'm optimistic that I will figure out how to get through it and I think that's the way most farmers look at it," said Rominger.
Farmers also have to look at a very scary bottom line. "You know, you have to borrow millions and millions of dollars to grow your crop. I mean I'm starting now to spend money doing field preparation for crops I'm gonna grow next spring that I won't get paid for until next September or October, over a year from now. I'm spending that money now," said Rominger. If markets are lost, if prices collapse, if the economy goes into recession proving a point may prove to be pointless.
"Other things that are very perishable, the price may drop right away this year and so people will get hurt immediately. You know, growers may have stuff that doesn't get picked.”
The question is: are these initial tariffs simply shots across the bow that will quickly lead to some sort of a trade peace agreement or the opening shots of a much larger trade war that will leave fields fallow, people unemployed, prices higher and war that nobody can really win?