Additional Chinese Tariff on Ag is Disruptive

Growers Concerned Over Added Tariff into China

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Trade to China is so important to California, and for that reason, the 15 percent added Chinese tariff on ag products is devastating. It’s due to the retaliation of the Trump administration tariff, which he put on steel and aluminum exported by China.

Jeff Colombini with Lodi Farming Co.

It’s worrisome for growers such as Jeff Colombini, the president of Lodi Farming, with partners that grow cherries, apples, walnuts, and olives. He noted that apples and walnuts are an essential crop to China and he’s concerned.

“Trade is significant to the apple crop for California apples, but particularly for Washington state. Apples in Washington state is the largest producer of apples. They export greater than 25 percent of their crop,” Colombini said.

“Both China and Mexico take apple varieties that have fallen out of favor for U.S. consumers. So really, it’s a match made in heaven,” he said.

Colombini said growers have made decisions over the last 10 to 15 years on planting orchards based on these growing export markets.

“Then when the markets slam shut, what do we do with all this excess production/ This becomes disruptive to the markets … not to mention it significantly affects the farmer’s bottom line,” he explained.

Colombini said apples require a lot of labor—a big economic boost to many communities—and disruption in getting that crop to China is not good.

There’s a lot of people employed in the apple industry throughout the United States, and so a trade war can have a significant impact on many thousands of families.

Colombini said it took many years to get that China market open, and when it finally got opened in 2015, it has grown to be their sixth largest export market.

“Similarly, the export disruptions for walnuts is extremely concerning to that industry,” he said.

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Despite Great Harvest, California Apple Growers Face Challenges

California Apple Growers Face Regulatory Disadvantage

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Many California apple growers are in the midst of harvest season right now. Alex Ott, executive director of the Clovis-based California Apple Commission expects a 3% increase in production across the country. Ott foresees a 1% increase in California this season, where apples stand out because of their freshness.

“California is the fifth largest producer of apples in the United States,” Ott explained. “We are about the third largest exporter of apples in the United States. We like to pick, pack and ship. Unlike other states that like to store fruit and have that fruit around longer, California apple growers like to get in and get out,” Ott said.california-apple-commission-logo California Apple

“We have a small marketing window and we pride ourselves on fresh crops,” Ott elaborated. “So we try to get out of the market no later than December. Sometimes we go as late as January, but the idea is to [quickly] fill that niche window between the Chilean and the Washington state fruit.”

Alex Ott, executive director of the Clovis-based California Apple Commission
Alex Ott, executive director of the Clovis-based California Apple Commission

Yet, the California apple industry faces challenges going forward. Ott stated, “Over the last five years, California apple crop production has decreased by nearly 39%. A lot of that has to do with the changing of the crops. Any time you start to see an uptick in another crop, especially when it is not hand labor-intensive like apples, you will see a migration to those types of crops.”

Transitioning toward less labor-intensive crops may accelerate since Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1066. This bill will enable California farm employees to accrue overtime pay after working an 8-hour day, instead of a 10-hour day.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge for California apple growers,” Ott said, especially given the labor shortage. “So apple production in the state will decrease.”

Ott lamented many countries already produce a lot of these other less labor-intensive crops. AB 1066 definitely puts us at a competitive disadvantage in keeping up with demand. The challenge is how can California apple growers compete with farmers in other state and countries who can do it faster and cheaper?

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