China levies 179 percent tariff on American sorghum - FOX34 Lubbock

China levies 179 percent tariff on American sorghum

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The Chinese say the 179 percent tariff on American sorghum, set to go into effect Wednesday, is retaliation for Americans dumping sorghum in the Chinese market, hurting its farmers.

China is the largest buyer of the grain, importing around a billion dollars worth last year. 

Earlier this year prices dropped 20 percent after China threatened tariffs on the grain in retaliation for President Trump's proposed tariffs. Now farmers are bracing for the impact this could have.

"As we look at this trade scenario that's going on between the U.S. and China and certainly this news is an even deeper blow," said Jennifer Blackburn, External Affairs Director, National Sorghum Growers. "This is a larger trade picture and unfortunately sorghum producers are suffering the consequences of that."

The tariffs are also coming at an inopportune time. Planting season is near and many farmers have already purchased seed.

"Fortunately for this area a lot of producers are able to go to the ethanol market and that's certainly advantageous for that fact but it's going to hurt our overall industry because of this news," Blackburn said.

For those farmers who will be impacted, there are protections in the current iteration of the Farm Bill. 

The price loss coverage and federal crop insurance programs are there to help producers make it through tough times. 

"The safety net certainly provides some support when prices are low and I think sorghum producers and other producers across the country are certainly seeing this right now and so having a good strong Farm Bill that is passed on time is going to be needed for producers everywhere."

Law makers including Lubbock Rep. Jodey Arrington have been working on a new stronger farm bill to help in these situations.

In the recently released House version, protections for crops such as sorghum are continued, seed cotton is a Title 1 Commodity, eligible for price loss coverage, and cattle ranchers get a new form of safety net to protect live stock from Foot and Mouth Disease.

"It's basically to be there when times are tough as we heard today net farm income is down around 50 percent over the three years and that's when a farm bill is supposed to kick in and help," said Steve Verett, Director of Plains Cotton Growers.

While it does not offer producers absolute protection from instances like the Chinese tariffs, Rep. Arrington said it does go a long way in protecting the heart of the West Texas economy.

"This is building on what we've already done but it gives that certainty and continuity to our food supply and to the food security to this nation which is again, not just important to our economy but it's critical to our national security," Arrington said.

The House version of the Farm Bill will be brought up for a vote in committee Wednesday. Arrington said he expects it to pass and make its way to the floor for a vote before being sent to the Senate.

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