US farmers in ‘precarious position’ with China amid trade war fears

China’s announcement this past week also concerns other agricultural commodities, particularly wheat, frozen beef and cotton.

“It is unsettling to see American-produced beef listed as a target for retaliation,” said Kent Bacus, director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “This is a battle between two governments, and the unfortunate casualties will be America’s cattlemen and women and our consumers in China.”

Bacus added that the cattle association backs “trade enforcement, but endless retaliation is not a good path forward for either side.”

China took delivery just last year of the first shipments of American beef in 14 years. China had shut its market to American beef producers after a case of so-called mad cow disease was detected in the U.S. in late 2003.

As for wheat, the industry is also worried about the impact of the escalating trade dispute.

“This will definitely be a big hit to the U.S. wheat market,” said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “Putting a 25 percent tariff on all U.S. wheat going into China is going to significantly reduce our availability to that market.”

The U.S. wheat industry last year sold 61 million bushels of the commodity to China, or about $450 million worth of the product. China ranks as the fourth-largest buyer of American wheat.

Cotton growers, too, expressed concern this past week about China’s threat to impose a 25 percent tariff. China also ranks as the second-largest buyer of American cotton, with one out of every five bales headed there.

“I cannot overstate the importance of China’s market to U.S. cotton farmers and the importance of U.S. cotton in meeting the needs of China’s textile industry,” said Ron Craft, chairman of the National Cotton Council.

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