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Trump's Trade War Targets Second-Most-American Pie Filling

Cherry growers get hit with steep tariffs right in the middle of their harvest season.

Brad Calkins/Dreamstime.comBrad Calkins/Dreamstime.comPresident Donald Trump's trade policies are leaving no iconic American industry unscathed. Having scared away motorcycle manufacturers and eaten into the profits of the country's brewers, he now threatens another cherished American product: the cherry.

On Friday, the Trump administration levied tariffs on some $50 billion of Chinese goods, including everything from x-ray tubes and aircraft tires to ultrasound machines and agricultural equipment. China retaliated with its own tariffs on imported Americans cars, meats, and produce.

The most immediate victims of this breakdown in trans-Pacific trade are the agribusinesses who risk being cut off from their best export market.

"Every time there is a trade friction, the first thing that gets hit with retaliatory tariffs are the fresh products," says Steve Reinholt, export sales director for the Washington-based agricultural export company Oneonta. "We pack and ship things within 48 hours. If you have a bit of a slowdown, it can effect things quickly."

Hardest hit, says Reinholt, are the cherry growers his company buys from, who over the past decade had been doing steadily increasing business with China.

As recently as 2005, the U.S. sold almost no cherries to China. Last year, the country was the largest foreign buyer of the fruits. Of the 20 million 20-pound boxes of cherries produced in the U.S. in 2017, 3.2 million went to China.

Those numbers will not be matched by this year's sales, says B.J. Thurlby of Northwest Cherry Growers, a trade association. He puts the blame squarely on the new tariffs.

"We're very much expecting to have less volume to China this year," says Thurlby. "Historically we would ship two million boxes in July alone. There's just no way we see that happening this year, not with the amount of tariffs we're talking about."

Exporting to China had always been a challenge for the 2,500 or so Pacific Northwest growers that Thurlby's organization represents. In the past, these growers have had to contend with a flat 10 percent import tax as well as a 13 percent value added tax.

Trump's trade policies have only made things worse.

In response to the U.S.'s protectionist drift, China has upped tariffs on U.S. produce twice in the last three months, once in April and again last week, getting us to the 50 percent tariffs growers now have to pay.

Chinese officials have other means of making agricultural exporters' lives miserable, too. All fresh produce entering the country has to be inspected, and Chinese authorities have been known to hold fruits and vegetables at ports until they rot.

California cherry growers report that Chinese authorities have held shipments five days for inspections. More such tactics could be on the horizon should trade relations between the two countries deteriorate further.

Fortunately, says Reinholt, this year has seen a smaller, high-quality crop of cherries and robust domestic demand, so growers can survive a brief trade spat. But "if it continues or gets worse between now and next season, that could be a real problem."

Thurlby agrees. Cherry growers require good years of high profits to offset leaner seasons where low prices see farmers break even or not even harvest at all. "We need every market, every year to stay viable," he says.

The outbreak of a trade war with no end in sight has left growers feeling like their industry is being ignored—or, worse, sacrificed for wider trade objectives.

"Unfortunately, I don't think that cherries are part of the big picture or even on the radar," says Thurlby. "I have 2,400 frustrated growers across five states that aren't happy with the direction of these trade wars at all."

Photo Credit: Brad Calkins/Dreamstime.com

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  • Eddy||

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

  • Don't look at me.||

    Pretty tame. Must suck to work at your place.

  • Eddy||

    You don't like tame? Try this.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    We all float here.

  • gaoxiaen||

    She's my cherry tart.

  • sarcasmic||

    Stupid libertarians. If you don't support protective tariffs then you voted for Hillary Obama. That was the only ballot choice, and you chose it. Come clean in your support of Trump and the charges will be withdrawn. With prejudice.

  • ||

    Don't blame me, I voted for Almanian/SMOD.

  • BambiB||

    Actually, I do support Trump. It surprises me to say that. I didn't even vote for him. But he's done so much RIGHT, I'm willing to extend a bit of trust that he knows what he's doing. Maybe he's wrong on the trade war. But even if he is, overall, we are still WAY ahead of a Hitlery presidency.

  • DrZ||

    I voted for Alfred E. Neuman.
    I don't want to worry anymore.

  • juris imprudent||

    Alt-headline: Trump's trade war pops cherry!

  • Echo Chamber||

    Cherries hardest hit by Trump

  • DJF||

    There can't be any cherry crop, Reason has already reported the crops are rotting in the field.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    They told us repealing Net Neutrality would have consequences

  • Grakkus||

    Bought some Raniers last night on sale.

  • Eeyore||

    The Chinese government making it so the people of China can't afford cherries is ok with me. The good cherries were about $2 less per pound this year. Better for me.

  • Agammamon||

    The National Cherry Board is going to come in and 'protect' these growers by 'buying' up their excess harvest - and you're going to pay for it.

    So, enjoy those cheap cherry prices at checkout - you've already paid for them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Are these cherry pies fried pies?

  • Azathoth!!||

    Fortunately, says Reinholt, this year has seen a smaller, high-quality crop of cherries and robust domestic demand, so growers can survive a brief trade spat.

    So, no actual problem at all this year.

    Huh.

    So no point to this article whatsoever? 'Cept some random TDS?

    Sad.

  • Cathy L||

    Yep, no point to reporting the news.

  • ||

    Yep, no point to reporting the news.

    You've got to admit that it is a little bit ironic that any other time the media wants to portray dumb yokels in flyover country as paying attention to anything to the meaningless minutiae that constitutes news in their own little lives, pricing and crop futures are invariably what they use.

  • Zeb||

    And people in agriculture never worry about what might come in future years. That would be stupid.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    That's populism for ya. Can't enjoy winning for all the episodes when you're never quite sure if you're losing.

  • smalleyd||

    According to this article, China has already been a bad trade partner (tariffs plus slow inspections). But it's somehow Trump's trade war. #tds

  • Zeb||

    Well, it may not be all Trump's doing, but it wouldn't be a trade war (if that is indeed what it is) without Trump's influence.

  • smalleyd||

    Reason has consistently declared this Trump's Trade War (TTW) while almost entirely omitting that other nations have been waging a trade war against America for years. Are Trump's action the best way to force the other nations' hands? I don't know. But it appear that Reason is OK with the US remaining the world's doormat.

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    "To survive a war, you gotta become war."

    -John Rambo

  • Agammamon||

    You talk like the US hasn't been going tit-for-tat with all of them for the same period of time. Like we've just been sitting here all free-trade and suddenly Trump is coming in and 'doing something'.

  • vek||

    We haven't done literally nothing... But we've not done anywhere close to what we should either.

    Here's what a sane administration would have done with China before giving them preferential treatment in selling into the USA: Hey guys. Sooo if you want to sell into the USA with no tariffs, we're going to need you to lower all yours on US goods. If you do we can both go straight down to zero, and may the best man win! If not we're going to have to match your high rates. So the ball is in your court, lemme know what you want to do.

    Instead we put all ours at near zero, and allowed them to have high double digit tariffs on all our stuff. We've now become so dependent on them it will be painful to actually assert our self and get a fair deal... When before our economy was dependent on us it would have been ZERO pain to just force their hand.

    So, yeah, it's been horribly managed across the board. We've always had the leverage, being the number 1 consumption market in the world... Yet we never fully utilized our leverage to force TRUE free trade, when we could have. NOW it will have to be painful to fix things, but ultimately it will be worth it for both the US economy and foreign economies, because the true best producers can rise to the top with real free trade.

  • Randall Fox||

    Fighting for equal trade might cause discomfort to a few businesses. Therefore, the USA should accept one-sided trade deals in perpetuity.

    Probably shouldn't have done the Revolution (go Monarchy!, phck Individual Rights), Civil War (go slavery!), WWII (go Hitler!) or Civil Rights (go Jim Crow!) either. Standing up for what is right is just too hard.

  • Agammamon||

    Or - OR - the US government could just stop making trade deals. Stop getting in the way of private people doing their private things so the USG can use its power to buy votes from politically influential minorities.

    We could try that.

  • vek||

    And all those other countries, and their protectionist policies will continue to hurt US businesses... That's an EXCELLENT idea.

    We're naturally competitive in a lot of markets. That's why we still have so many highly paid jobs... But a given industry where we're strong STILL only has so much demand globally. We're competitive in plastics for instance. Hence lots of plastic stuff (Rubbermaid, etc) is made in the USA. I'm sure we export this stuff too. But there is only so much demand for ANY given thing, we can't export 10 trillion a year in plastic products.

    If we get crushed on exporting even things where we ARE a strong competitor by foreign tariffs, and continue to import like crazy with zero tariffs on our end, that hurts our economy. There's a reason we have the lowest labor force participation rate in several decades. Manufacturing still matters. Germany has almost twice the % of their workforce working in manufacturing as we do, as does Japan... They are the next biggest 1st world countries on earth after us. Since we have a welfare state the productive industries are still paying for all these people to live too, so that's doubly horrible for the country.

    If we force others to drop barriers we have more jobs, more tax payers, fewer welfare cases, lower trade deficit, and everything is generally better. We should have done it decades ago, but better late than never. I don't think Trump is doing it the best way personally, but we'll see if he gets results.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Cherry picking. Typical.

  • Cranedoc||

    Sell them to Russia instead!

  • DajjaI||

    Wait I thought trade wars are good and easy to win?

  • Ron||

    they will just have to lower their prices for food stuff so that no American child goes hungry.

  • No Longer Amused||

    The price of cherries in Seattle dropped by about 1/2 or more in the last week as the international market just vanished, and now they are trying to sell everything before it rots.

    On the positive side, I made 5 batches of cherry jam on Friday because they were so cheap.

    4 cups pitted cherries, quartered
    5 cups sugar
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1 packet fruit pectin

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I oppose the tariffs on general principle. I hope the trade war ends soon. But I've got to say, this is the one problem where juice really is the answer.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    There is a reason farmers hedge their bets on the commodities market.

  • vek||

    I don't know that I like the way Trump is trying to tackle the trade issue... But it does need to be dealt with. I think tariffs on input materials is a bad idea, hence his steel thing is silly. And doing small tit for tat stuff is also dumb.

    IMO he should go straight nuclear option. What I mean by that is threaten across the board, high tariffs on EVERYTHING coming in from China if they don't agree to dropping tariff and non tariff protections.

    Here's the thing: We can throw their economy into depression day one... We don't export enough to them to even give us a mild recession if we lose 100% of exports to there. It'll give us a bloody nose, but it'll put them on their deathbed immediately. What about all those goods we need? Well, almost everything they make is also made in other low wage countries. We can import cheap shirts/shoes/etc from India, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, weeell you get the picture.

    But where can they sell their goods? Nowhere. Hence they are forced to cave. Many say he's just stepping it up chunk by chunk to give them time to realize we have them by the balls, and he'll just keep stepping it up bit by bit until they cave... But politically this is bad because it gives people time to be outraged, whereas if he just threatened the nuclear option, they would have to cave immediately knowing they couldn't survive an across the board tariff wall. We'll see how his plan goes I guess...

  • Michael Cook||

    We have to try to keep in mind the big picture. Let's talk the USA vs Europe, because that is where Trump flew today. In really fuzzy propaganda-speak which has been spoon fed to the American people for many decades, we have some type of laudable FREE TRADE relationship with the EU.

    No. We have a mishmash of trade agreements that pays lip service to free trade but is riddled with carve outs and exceptions. Can we blame these unfair-to- the-USA-trade agreements (agreed to by both Repub and Dem administrations to please certain international corporations) or should we blame inferior American export products for as causing our huge trade imbalance with Europe?

    Or should we blame NATO, which employs our forces like an unpaid guard dog while other NATO nations spend their own budgets on better things? Angela Merkel wants it sooo many ways: she wants cheap natural gas from Russia to keep Germans warm (including Russian gas imported in Ukrainian pipelines so Merkel can pretend to be enforcing sanctions against Russia). She has to import the gas because she destroyed the German nuclear and coal industries to please her green party allies and the over-hyped alternative energy solutions do not really work well. But Merkel still wants Americans to protect Germany militarily from that nasty Putin, even as she hoses American workers!

    Trump is calling Bull-excrement on all of this. It is time someone did.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I think this is a no-lose proposition for Trump.

    If we get better trade deals out of this, Trump and the USA win. If we don't, then Trump pivots on trade wars just before the mid-terms, prices drop a little, stock market soars, and Trump wins more support for himself.

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