Palouse pulse crop farmers struggle amid President Trump’s trade war
PULLMAN, Wash. — As President Trump attempts to take on China, and a trade war erupts with tariffs left and right, there is a group of folks feeling caught in the middle.
“Agriculture is taking the brunt of this, as far as we can see,” said Tim McGreevy, a long time Palouse farmer and now head of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. “We are feeling the pain and it’s pretty significant.”
McGreevy said the tariffs China slapped on pulse crops, namely dry peas, have taken a toll.
“China is our second largest market and as soon as those tariffs went into place, basically the bottom dropped out,” McGreevy said. “We went from a 9 percent market share to .6 [percent]. Our job is to feed the world, and we are having trouble doing that right now.”
Farrmers nationwide have lost millions of dollars in the process, but Washington has been hit hard. The state accounts for 20-25 percent of pulse crop exports, McGreevy said.
McGreevy said making up the difference has proven difficult, as other major markets have not been immune from politics either.
In Mexico, McGreevy said there has been a 40 percent drop in dry pea imports as a NAFTA replacement is being worked on.
US exports to India have dropped by a whopping 92 percent afte the country imposed its own tariffs to spur on domestic production.
Shipments to the European Union have also lagged, as the expectation of tariffs looms.
“Whenever you have uncertainty like this, people are hedging their bets, looking at your competitors and that has reduced sales across the board,” McGreevy said. “You are now basically going through and figuring out which crop will lose the least amount of money.”
McGreevy said, bottom line, the trade disputes need to be resolved, as farmers face increasing financial insecurity.
“Farmers are a loyal bunch and they can see the long term potential here,” McGreevy said. “But there is a lot of conversation if you are facing losing your farm.”
McGreevy pointed out that domestic consumption of pulse crops have increased, spurred on by millenials and health conscious boomers who like humus and other vegetable based foods, but that it is not enough to overcome the decline of foreign markets.
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