If you were to open the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or really any paper of record, you would be bombarded by countless stories about the current US-China trade war and the devastating effects on American farmers. Tale after tale of soybeans going unsold and corn fields going fallow are far too common and tell an overly simplistic story about the impact and the reality of the current state of agriculture in the United States.
It should go without saying that our hearts go out to those commodity farmers that are being hurt by retroactive tariffs imposed by China on their goods. It’s our great hope that farmers across the Midwest will retool and repurpose their activities to not be so beholden to a non-market command economy like the People’s Republic of China. In diversifying their product mix as well as their customer base, these farmers would be best positioned to compete in the modern world of agribusiness.
What the media has failed to take into account is that in any trade war, there are winners as well as losers. China has routinely flooded the US market with cheap produce, often sold at prices below their cost of production. Many Chinese exporters are playing “the long game,” and instead of competing in the free and fair market, are choosing to flood our shores at a loss in order to gain market share in the future. Countless farmers have gone out of business due to this illegal activity, and the current Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods greatly benefit many American farmers, something that is routinely left out of the larger media narrative.
The US garlic industry has been under assault by fraudulent Chinese exporters since 1994. Per the Department of Commerce, since 2001, the American garlic industry has been directly impacted by over $600 million in financial damages by Chinese firms. I personally testified before the US International Trade Commission in August 2018 to ensure that Chinese garlic was included on the list of tariffs, and I’m proud to report that on Sept. 24, 2018, garlic made the official list. All Chinese garlic was immediately made subject to a 10 percent tariff, and on May 10, that tariff increased to 25 percent.
This action provides immediate relief to our domestic industry. Back in the 1990s there were 12 major garlic farms in the United States. Today, there are only three left. We’re proud to be Gilroy’s largest employer, with over 1,000 full-time employees, and we’re proud to offer one of the nation’s highest corporate minimum wages at $15 per hour. An economic engine for our local community, Christopher Ranch is an indirect beneficiary of the administration’s tariff actions. In making California garlic more competitive against illegally dumped Chinese garlic, we stand ready to expand our industrial capacity, grow more acres of all-American grown garlic, and continue to increase our workforce.
It’s not just American garlic farmers that are given critical support against less than ethical Chinese exporters. American apple farmers, crawfish farmers, sweet corn farmers, onion farmers, beekeepers, carrot farmers, lobster farmers, to name just a few, are also given immediate redress to Chinese activity due to the tariffs.
International competition isn’t the problem. We’re happy to compete with countries that play by the rules of the free market. It’s only when non-market actors, like China, seek to break the rules and ignore the standards and norms of free and fair trade that it’s critical that our government step in. While tariffs aren’t a permanent solution, they provide immediate relief for the US garlic industry—an industry that’s been under siege for years.
Ken Christopher is the executive vice president of Christopher Ranch.