Valley agriculture caught up in international trade fight

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Canada's foreign minister said on Wednesday the country would retaliate with a "dollar for dollar" tariff in response to the 25% tariff on imported steel imposed by President Trump.

Valley agriculture is caught right in the middle of this trade dispute involving allies such as Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. New tariffs would take effect in July.

When it comes to California ag exports, Canada is the second significant buyer behind the EU. A 10% tariff or added tax on ketchup and tomato sauce would be felt in the valley.

Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen explained, "One of the big ones for Canada that they're going to attach a tariff to is tomato products, and when you talk processing tomatoes, those are coming from the San Joaquin Valley."

Jacobsen added everyone from local dairy producers to winemakers was worried about added tariffs which would make their product more expensive to buyers in other countries.

He said, "Small fluctuations when it comes to what happens on the export market makes big ramifications for where the pricing is going to be here domestically for our farmers."

Blueberries, apples, and cheese were among the items Mexico has listed on its tariff list.

Meridian Growers Managing Partner Jim Zion said, "I'm hoping cooler heads prevail."

Zion said a 25% tariff now has buyers in China taking a "wait and see" attitude. The country is a major importer of Valley almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Zion said, "Anywhere between 15 and 20% of what we produce goes to China. For instance on pistachios, one out of every four pistachios we produce ends up in a Chinese consumer's hands, so it is a huge market for us."

Zion worried local growers and the US could lose market share to other nut-growing countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Australia.

Anxious growers held out hope the on-going trade dispute would eventually lead to a better deal in the future.
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