Fresh Food

Import Tariffs Could Put U.S. Food Supply at Risk

The Lempert Report: Agriculture would likely be the first place other countries would turn to retaliate

One of the advisory boards that I sit on had a very heated debate between farmers and growers and how the administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum could dramatically hurt our food economy.

Agriculture is one of the largest economic sectors in the largest export market for the U.S., Adam Kantrovich, associate professor of agribusiness at Clemson University, told Greenville online. He said it is likely the first place other countries would turn to retaliate, which could impact the country’s food suppliers.  

China, one of the top purchasers of U.S. farm goods, has already revealed a list of tariffs on 128 U.S. products, which includes a 15% tariff increase on products such as nuts, wine, and fresh and dried fruit, and a 25% tariff increase on other products such as pork.

What this means for consumers is likely not as clear, Kantrovich says, but in the world of global economics, it is possible the impact could trickle down to grocery store shelves eventually. At the very least, it will likely mean even more fluctuation for the already volatile agricultural market.

Since agriculture is the No. 1 export for the U.S., it is the easiest and likeliest target for other countries. Nationally, exports of agricultural goods have averaged nearly $140 billion since 2010, while imports have hovered around $100 billion, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Among the country’s largest exports are commodity products—soybeans, rice, wheat and corn. 

China is the largest importer of U.S. soybeans in the world.


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