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Impact of U.S.-China trade on Carroll farmers appears minimal

The United States’ ongoing trade war with China is getting mixed reviews across the country, but it appears Carroll County farmers have not been meaningfully affected by it.

In May, President Trump raised tariffs on imported Chinese goods — taxes paid by the U.S. companies that import them and potentially passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. In retaliation, China raised tariffs on imported U.S. goods.

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While some Maryland businesses have voiced support for U.S. tariffs, the trade war has not been good for business for some U.S. farmers who depend on exports to China. In 2018 the Trump administration made $12 billion available to impacted farmers through the Market Facilitation Program, according to a USDA spokesman.

But it’s unclear how much Carroll farmers either have or will be impacted by the ongoing trade war.

On the one hand, Carroll County farmers received a total of $2,189,435 under the 2018 Market Facilitation Program, according to the spokesman. The program is designed to give farmers money to offset the effects of tariffs.

On the other hand, local farmers are just not that dependent on exports, according to Harry Sellers, the president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau who operates a dairy farm north of Manchester. He said he was not aware of any farmers who received any of the more than $2 million paid out in 2018.

“A lot of the corn and beans and stuff grown here stay on this side of the mountains, it’s not like we are exporting a lot,” Sellers said. “Not like the states out west. In this part of the world, most of it is used right here. You have a lot of our poultry people go down in Virginia, Perdue is out on the Eastern Shore. The corn goes to Lancaster [Pennsylvania] and West Virginia. We’re not as dependent on exports.”

And that’s especially true this year, according to Sellers.

“After last year’s less-than-average crops, we got pretty good demand right here,” he said. “And with late planting out west it helps carry our prices up.”

Sellers was referring to heavy rains that have delayed the planting season in midwestern states, compounding the pain for those farmers who are dependent on exports and therefore affected by retaliatory Chinese tariffs.

“We got wet last year, it’s their turn this year,” he said.

Regardless, the Trump administration has authorized USDA to provide another $14.5 billion for payments to assist farmers in 2019, according to the spokesman.

Sellers said he was not aware of any Carroll farmers that intend to apply.

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