U.S. fruit growers want trade, not aid.
While the Trump administration has promised to help farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs by Mexico, China and other countries, the kind of help fruit exporters most want is access to tariff-free access markets.
The Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from many countries has created new barriers for U.S. fruit exporters.
In a visit to Washington state July 3, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue talked about potential mitigation programs to help growers deal with the retaliatory tariffs other countries have imposed on U.S. imports.
Perdue wants to work out details of a plan by Labor Day, according to Todd Fryhover, president of the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission.
Fryhover said Perdue mentioned potential Section 32 commodity purchases by USDA.
“Section 32” is a permanent appropriation that since 1935 has set aside the equivalent of 30% of annual customs receipts to support the farm sector through the purchase of surplus commodities and a variety of other activities as a solution to the trade issues.
One of the points that we tried to make was that in our particular world, in the real world, those types of programs typically are not very effective.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the appropriation has totaled nearly $10 billion annually, and more than 80% of the appropriation is transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s child nutrition account.
“One of the points that we tried to make was that in our particular world, in the real world, those types of programs typically are not very effective,” Fryhover said.
“They are usually low-cost product that exit the marketplace, and we’re losing markets that are definitely value-added,” he said, noting that China and other countries pay top dollar for Washington apples.
“You can’t just lose all those high f.o.b. value sales and then have a whole bunch of low-(value) product go to the U.S. (nutrition programs).”
Fryhover said the industry wants an end to the retaliatory tariffs, not the beginning of a new government program.
“To go from, ‘Let us trade, let us compete’ to ‘OK, now, what are you going to do for us?’ — that’s a long path to travel for our industry,” he said. “We haven’t gotten there yet. We may.”
The message we and other groups here in D.C. are pushing is we want ‘trade, not aid.’
Jim Bair, president of the U.S. Apple Association, said apple and other commodity marketers have spent decades and millions of dollars expanding global markets. Bair said the Trump administration’s assurance that “farmers won’t bear the brunt” of the trade friction has no meaning at this point.
“The message we and other groups here in D.C. are pushing is we want ‘trade, not aid,’” he said.
U.S. Apple board chairman Mark Boyer, part-owner of Fishertown, Pa.-based Ridgetop Orchards, filmed a commercial in association with Farmers for Free Trade asking Trump to end the trade war. The spot has aired 39 times over the last 2 weeks on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC Morning Joe, and Fox Business with Lou Dobbs, Bair said.
“The strategy was to feature a grower from a swing state that helped elect Trump, and get the ad right in front of the president by airing it on the TV channels and at times he is known to watch,” Bair said.
One shipper said it would be hard for the government to create a program that would be effective.
“Government handouts or payouts isn’t that isn’t what we’re looking for as an industry,” said Steve Reinholt, export sales director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Trading Corp. he said. “Let the free market determine the value of our products.”