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Alabama farmers brace for impact of retaliation to Trump tariffs

Alabama farmers brace for impact of retaliation to Trump tariffs (IMG:WPMI)

Crops are in the ground and local soybean farmers are nervous as a trade war with China continues to loom.

Tuesday President Donald Trump and his administration imposed $200 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods and now it's speculated China will retaliate, targeting major agricultural goods such as soybeans. Soybeans are major export out of the Port of Mobile.

The Chinese are taking their case to the World Trade Organization, threatening a 25% tariff on U.S. soybeans. Some $200 million in revenue for the state and for local farmers is at stake.

Soybeans through the Port of Mobile average a little over 1 million tons each year. China is our largest customer.

Local farmers like Mark Kaiser in Elsanor planted less soybeans this year- 80 acres, or half of what he usually puts in the ground. "China is going to charge 25% on top of the cost of the soybeans for our soybeans to enter their market, so that makes our soybeans more expensive," said Kaiser.

More expensive for China is not a good prospect for local farmers. "And then they'll try and find soybeans somewhere else cheaper, which would be Brazil or somewhere in South America," said Kaiser.

Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner says it's all politics, he's telling his farmers to hang on. We spoke to John McMillan on the phone from Montgomery. He says the Chinese know most farmers support the President.

"They are targeting the areas where President Trump is the strongest, hoping to get farmers and others, rural Americans in particular, upset with the President from a political perspective," said McMillan.

Kaiser voted for President Trump. "And we hope that you know he helps us out, in the end," said Kaiser.

most farmers we talked to are hoping the trade war will open new markets for local farmers.

Right now, China buys meat and peanuts from other countries. Alabama farmers say those could be new money makers.

"China has kept us out of our markets in other products that we produce and if they would open those markets up, our whole farm economy will be doing better," said Kaiser.

Port Authority officials say a 25% tariff on U.S. products like soybeans is "concerning."

Port officials hope U.S. / China trade issues are resolved by the Fall when the grain season really gets underway.

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