Local pork producers worry trade war tariffs could hurt business


Anxiety is growing among American farmers because, barring any last minute breakthroughs, the Trump administration will begin imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese, Canadian and Mexican goods on Friday.

Farmers, like Brian Duncan in Polo — who sells meat from his farm to big companies like Tyson — will be the most affected, because the U.S.’s trade partners have responded to the president’s tariffs with retaliatory measures of their own, which are expected to drive up the cost of his product to companies based in Mexico and China, two of the countries to whom U.S. farmers export the most pork.

“The impact will be dramatic, could be dramatic,” Duncan, who is also Vice President of the Farmers Bureau, said. “I think it’s already caused agriculture billions of dollars. We have seen the markets decline in response to threats and the implications, and obviously, we are hoping for a negotiation settlement. We will see what Friday brings.”

The impact on U.S. consumers won’t be as significant, at least right away.

“There will be pork from other countries, like Denmark and Canada, which will be considerably cheaper than U.S. pork in China,” Duncan said. “And, same way in Mexico, if we don’t get a new agreement negotiated with Mexico. So, no, it means pork will be dramatically cheaper in this country.”

In the long term, pork prices could rise eventually in America.

Local farmers who struggle with export sales may be forced to reduce their supply. And with pork, especially bacon, demand is always high. That lack of supply could raise prices nationally.

That’s why many local meat shops say they pay a premium by choice, to help their local farmers’ bottom line.

“We deal on a premium price for the individuals we deal with, to start with,” said Tom Eickman, part owner of Eickman’s Meats in Seward. “Our goal is to be sustainable, so we tend to be over what market prices are, and try to keep those up, so farmers can make a decent living and continue operations, so the next time we call on them, they’re still in business and they’re still there.”

China also plans on imposing 25% tariffs on U.S. soybeans. Illinois farmers are the top producers of soybeans in the country.

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