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Farmers feel let down by Trump

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20180324farmerstrade_63594.jpg

FILE- In this July 21, 2017, file photo, young hogs are seen at Everette Murphrey Farm in Farmville, N.C. After President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on products including Chinese steel, the Chinese government responded Friday, March 23, 2018, with a threat to add an equal 25 percent charge on U.S. products including pork. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

Gerry Broome

Farmers feel let down by Trump

The Associated Press

Mar 24, 2018

20180324farmerstrade_63594.jpg

FILE- In this July 21, 2017, file photo, young hogs are seen at Everette Murphrey Farm in Farmville, N.C. After President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on products including Chinese steel, the Chinese government responded Friday, March 23, 2018, with a threat to add an equal 25 percent charge on U.S. products including pork. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

Gerry Broome

DES MOINES, Iowa - From hog producers in Iowa to apple growers in Washington state and winemakers in California, farmers expressed deep disappointment Friday over being put in the middle of a potential trade war with China by the president many of them helped elect.

After President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on products including Chinese steel, Beijing responded Friday with a threat to slap an equal 25 percent charge on U.S. products such as pork, and a 15 percent tariff on such things as wine, apples, ethanol and stainless-steel pipe.

American farmers "should be not necessarily infuriated, but close to it," said Wayne Humphreys, who farms corn and soybeans and raises hogs and cattle near Columbus Junction, Iowa. "We've invested a lot of time, talent and treasure in developing markets around the world, and with the stroke of a pen, that investment has been jeopardized."

Overall, the nation's farmers shipped nearly $20 billion of goods to China in 2017. The American pork industry sent $1.1 billion in products, making China the No. 3 market for U.S. pork.

"No one wins in these tit-for-tat trade disputes, least of all the farmers and the consumers," said National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl, a pig farmer from Johnstown, Ohio.

The U.S. has complained for years about China's sharp-elbowed trading practices, accusing it of pirating trade secrets, manipulating its currency, forcing foreign companies to hand over technology, and flooding world markets with cheap steel and aluminum that drive down prices and put U.S. manufacturers out of business.

On Thursday, the Trump administration declared the talk approach a failure, noting that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with China last year hit a record $375 billion. In a move to punish Beijing for stealing American technology, the White House set in motion tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports and restrictions on new Chinese investment in the U.S.

"We're doing something that will be the start of making trade with China more fair," Trump said. "Our past presidents should never have allowed this to happen."

The stakes are high: China is America's largest trading partner. Last year, the two countries exchanged $636 billion worth of goods, and American companies such as Boeing and Caterpillar depend heavily on the Chinese market.

Farmers voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. But now many worry about economic blowback from his combative approach.

"When you start hurting this big segment of the economy from the people that gave him a lot of support in the election, I think it's going to hurt him. I really do," said Dave Struthers, who raises pigs, corn, soybeans and hay on a 1,100-acre family farm 30 miles northeast of Des Moines.

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