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Arkansas Pork Industry Caught In The Middle of Trade Trouble

Apr 16, 2018
Originally published on April 16, 2018 10:19 am

Arkansas’s agricultural producers are reacting to recent trade trouble between the U.S. and China.  While analysts have stopped short of calling it a trade war, the two countries have spent the last few weeks announcing a series of new tariffs on airplanes, cars, high tech and numerous agricultural products that include pork.

About one in four hogs raised in the U.S. is exported, according to Jim Monroe of the National Pork Producers Council.  China represents the third highest value market for U.S. pork with purchases of more than $1.1 billion per year.

“Even the tiniest penetration into the Chinese market can result in millions of pounds of volume,” said David Newman, an Arkansas State University Animal Sciences professor whose family has been involved with pork production for many years.

Angela Hoffman of Bentonville, who represents farmers who favor free trade, said farmers and ranchers often serve as collateral damage in trade disputes, and that agriculture often falls into the “sensitive products” category targeted for retaliatory tariffs.

“These are big categories.  Soybeans really matter,” she said, referring to a new 25-percent tariff on soybeans. 

Soybeans are the largest row crop in Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, China is the top country for exported Arkansas soybeans.

The agricultural tariffs from China came shortly after the U.S. announced tariffs on steel and aluminum.  The World Trade Center Arkansas conducted this survey on Arkansas businesses' reaction to those tariffs and found that only ten percent said they will have no impact.

According to President Donald Trump, the new tariffs are not only appropriate but long overdue.

“We’ve had this abuse by many other countries, and groups of countries that were put together in order to take advantage of the United States, and we don’t want that to happen.  We’re not going to let that happen,” said Trump at a news conference in March.

“I really believe that they can’t believe they’ve gotten away with this for so long,” he added.

Chinese officials said they’re not looking for a trade war but will not back down.

“If someone insists on starting a trade war, China will fight to the end,” said Wang Shouwen, a vice minister of commerce.

While they wait for the world’s two largest economies to end their skirmish, Newman said pork producers don’t have to despair. Their product is popular and can be sold elsewhere.

“We are rolling into the summer grilling season, which is a great time for pork, and usually we see a market swing because of that.”

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