Besides soybeans, China’s new tariffs impact pork, wheat, rice and dairy, as well as a variety of fruit and vegetable products. One in 4 hogs in the U.S. is sold overseas, and the Chinese are the world’s top consumers of pork.
“We do feel like we’re getting kicked in the shin and in the elbow all at the same time,” said Joe Steinkamp, who grows soybeans and corn in southern Indiana. “Farmers need that export market, and if we don’t have it then they will suffer and rural communities are going to suffer.”
At about $1.1 billion, mainland China and Hong Kong together are among the top export markets for U.S. pork based on value, according to the U.S. Meat Foundation. Last year, China was the second-largest volume market for American pork, after Mexico.
Experts say by targeting high-value U.S. farm exports such as soybeans and pork with punitive tariffs, China was sending a message to President Donald Trump, since the two farm products are primarily from Midwestern states that helped him win the 2016 election.
“They are clearly designed to hit back at the heartland of America, and raise the costs of agricultural farm exports to China that will reduce consumption in China and force them to look for alternatives,” said Robert Holleyman, a former senior trade official during the Obama administration and now president of C&M International, a Washington consulting firm.
In the case of pork, the retaliation is especially painful for American farmers, and shows just how brutal the trade tussle has become between Beijing and Washington. The pork industry still is reeling from 25 percent tariffs China imposed back on April 2.
“Pork products into China could start to take an immediate hit,” said David Salmonsen, senior director of government relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm organization. “We’ll see how much but they will have a pretty high tariff for getting into that market.
China’s additional levies also apply to various seafood products, including salmon, tuna, shark fins, crab, shrimp and lobster. The U.S. exported more than $1.3 billion worth of seafood to China in 2017, with Maine lobster alone accounting for more than $90 million of that amount last year.