Reminiscent of when President Ronald Reagan implored Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!,” American farmers are calling on President Donald Trump to do the same.
That famous line from Reagan’s 1987 speech in West Berlin referenced the barrier which had divided West and East Berlin since 1961. Now 31 years later, President Trump is erecting walls of his own, placing tariffs on foreign products coming to the United States. As a result, countries have placed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products heading into those foreign markets.
Now, I realize that the Berlin Wall represented a barrier between personal and political freedoms and ideologies, and trade wars can’t really be put on the same table. But, the trade barriers are very real, and will place a great burden on those impacted.
Agriculture, as well as most other U.S. industries, is caught in the crossfire, as was expected. U.S. pork producers have grown accustomed to feeding the world U.S.-made nutritious and delicious pork. Recent figures had shown that close to 27% of U.S. pork production was ending up on foreign plates. That is a number that American pig farmers was hoping to see grow as the U.S. swine herd is set on expansion mode.
Just as producers are feeling the heat in a down market, President Trump has been taking heat for his tariff stance and has offered a package to aid farmers taking market hits from the retaliatory tariffs.
The National Pork Producers Council issued a statement commending the president for the assistance package. NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, says, “President Trump has said he has the back of U.S. farmers and today demonstrated this commitment with an aid package to sustain American agriculture cutoff from critical export markets as his administration works to realign U.S. global trade policy.
“U.S. pork, which began the year in expansion mode to capitalize on unprecedented global demand, now faces punitive tariffs on 40% of its exports. The restrictions we face in critical markets such as Mexico and China — our top two export markets by volume last year — have placed American pig farmers and their families in dire financial straits. We thank the president for taking immediate action.
“While we recognize the complexities of resetting U.S. trade policy, we hope that U.S. pork will soon regain the chance to compete on a level playing field in markets around the globe. We have established valuable international trading relationships that have helped offset the U.S. trade deficit and fueled America’s rural economy.”
Though the $12 billion aid package may help producers weather the storm, and producers are appreciative of the efforts, nine out of 10 producers would much rather have open and fair trade to keep U.S. pork flowing from American barns to the kitchens of our foreign friends.
These trade barriers are coming at a bad time, just as the steam engine known as the U.S. pork industry was getting up to full speed only to slam into tariff walls. Even once these trade deals get worked out, it may take a while to get the pork engine up to touring speed, if it can even get back on the same track.
Mr. Trump, tear down these walls.