California Walnuts Face Threatening Tariffs

Big Challenges For the Walnut Industry

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

It takes one glance at current news headlines to know that agriculture trade is a hot-button issue within the industry. Amongst countless exported crops being hindered by tariffs, the California walnut industry is no different. With California English walnuts making up two-thirds of the world’s trade, the California Walnut Commission is on high alert to ensure that growers are protected from tariffs that could damage their markets.

Pamela Graviet, the commission’s senior marketing director, spoke deeper on this issue.

Pam Graviet

“If you look at the three major markets—China, Turkey, and India—where we have tariff issues,” Graviet said, “that represents twenty percent of our total shipments … it’s over $300 million we’re going to lose.”

Thus far, the walnut industry has avoided paying the full tariff direct to China through the “gray market,” or the sales of walnuts through other countries that feed into China.

“But when you’re tariff constrained or in a trade war” Graviet explained, “they are also cracking down on those other routes, and the gray market has also suffered.”

The California Walnut Commission will continue their work to protect nearly 100 handlers and 4,800+ growers that make up the California walnut industry.

Agriculture Struggles Unnecessarily, According to Steve Forbes

Forbes Chairman Has Suggestions to Help

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Water and labor are major agricultural issues in California. California Ag Today recently spoke with Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes Media, about the topics.

“I think that the more people are realizing the enormous opportunities of technology in agriculture. They think that it is going to get better and better in the future,” Forbes said.Everything from reservoirs to desalination plants should be modeled after Israel. They have been building desalination plants because Israel is in a desert where they have been getting rainfall.

Steve Forbes

“This is a very sophisticated use of water in agriculture where they are a real global power,” Forbes said.

Today, Israel uses 10 percent less water as a whole, not per capita, than they did 70 years ago despite the economy being 60 times larger.

Forbes thinks labor is also an issue.

“We are hurting ourselves, our food production, not just in agriculture but construction as well,” he said.

Forbes said we should recycle the programs that we once had, programs where returning people come in for specific time periods for specific jobs. This would help prevent the illegal immigrant problem because workers know they can come back.

On another note, he discussed the current trade war that the U.S. is in with China.

“If you hear 10 percent tariff on aluminum, that’s a 10 percent sales tax; put it that way and people’s eyes go up and they get it right away,” Forbes said.

Putting sales taxes on American consumers, agriculture, farmers, and businesses is not the best way to resolve very real trade abuses.

“Everyone knows from the disaster and the depression of the 1930s what trade wars can lead to,” Forbes said.

Forbes also explained that GMOs greatly benefit producers and should not be attacked as harmful to consumers.

“GMOs have been studied fairly well, and they are making food more plentiful. It makes food a safer in terms that you don’t have to use as many pesticides,” he said. “GMOs make a better use of water, and there is a lot less loss to diseases and insects. We are using human ingenuity to make the human condition better.”

Chinese Customers Hurt with Increased Tariff

Not Just California Farmers Hurt with Added Trade Tariff

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The extra tariff that China is putting on California agricultural products is an added frustration for the customers in China, said Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“It’s not just the extra 15 percent being levied by that country. But for our nut crops and wine guys, we already have 15 or 20 percent tariffs,” Johansson explained. “This is nothing new to us in California. California agricultural products excel in the Pacific Rim. We know we can compete with anyone in a global market. We know that no one’s better than the California farmer in terms of serving the Pacific Rim nations, and no one can get their product to the market faster in those Asian countries than California.”

Jamie Johansson, CFBF

Customers are affected the most when tariffs are implemented.

“I say when we have these trade talks and trade negotiations—and even now China [is] threatening the trade tariffs or has current tariffs on California products—it isn’t just the farmers that suffer,” Johansson said.

“We need to remind China that it is their consumers who are demanding our quality milk, our cheeses, our wine, pistachios, and almonds as well. Their consumers will suffer just like the California farmer. And we need to remind them of that because we only sell to the countries with consumers who demand it, and that’s who decides what we grow and where we ship to,” Johansson said.

15 Percent Chinese Tariff will Harm Farmers

CCM President Issues Statement Regarding Chinese Tariff Announcement

News Release from California Citrus Mutual

While the proposed 15% Chinese tariff increase will affect all fruits, nuts and vegetables shipped to China, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen issued the following statement regarding the tariff increase on  California citrus as a retaliatory counter to President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum:

The decision by the Chinese government to levy exorbitant tariff increases on U.S. produce will surely have a direct impact on California citrus producers. Maintaining access to foreign markets and having the ability to compete in a global market place are critical to the success of the citrus industry.

The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China hinders our ability to be competitive by increasing costs for Chinese consumers, an important market for California citrus. Family farmers in our industry will suffer from the economic fallout unless we can find alternative markets for California’s While our Administration focuses on those business sectors requiring attention, the Chinese Administration has chosen to expand the discussion to include the agricultural industry. In fact, the Chinese indicated last week in a statement that constructive talks could alleviate the real issues, yet insufficient time was given to accomplish that objective. Now Chinese consumers and California citrus producers are innocent parties to a trade debate.

Nelsen, CCM Executive Vice President Casey Creamer, and Board Chairman Curt Holmes have traveled to Washington, D.C. recently for meetings with Congress and the Administration regarding trade and other important issues affecting the California citrus industry.