Some of Washington’s Political Battles Put Exports, Workers in Play for Agriculture
The war of words between the U.S. and other countries is beginning to take its toll on the nation’s grower community. As reported a few weeks back, many attendees at the 2018 Commodity Classic were wearing “Growers for NAFTA” buttons, actively calling out to the President Donald Trump Administration to not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Then, approximately one month later, Washington announced it was planning to strike back at “unfair” Chinese trade practices by imposing new tariffs on some goods from that country. China, naturally, promised to “fight back,” and targeted many agricultural imports from the U.S.
Now, the ripples from these moves are starting to be felt. On April 17, China increased tariffs on U.S. sorghum by 178.6%. Since then, several cargo ships carrying sorghum to China have been re-routed (and re-sold) to new buyers in Japan and Saudi Arabia instead at “a pretty nice discount,” say observers, as a result. This, of course, has cost the sellers significant amounts of money.
Next up, immigrant labor is in the cross-hairs. As the much-touted caravan of immigrants from Central America was nearing the U.S. border in Mexico, Washington has repeatedly taken a hard line stance on foreign workers entering the U.S. This had many in the agricultural community to wonder about their future access to this important labor force.
However, at a political rally in Michigan on April 28, President Trump assured growers they could still get these workers – as long as they didn’t stick around. “We’re going to let your guest workers come in,” said Trump, referring to the nation’s long-standing H2B visa system. “They’re going to come in, they’re going to work on your farm. But then they have to go out.”
At this point, where all this political barter back-and-forth leads is anybody’s guess. As always, stay tuned for more developments in the months ahead . . .