Farmers in Central New York and across the state say they’re feeling the pinch of retaliatory tariffs placed on some of their products in the escalating trade war with the U.S. They welcome the $12 billion aid package offered by the Trump Administration, but worry the damage may be permanent.
Farmers already deal with a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the weather or market forces under normal conditions. But New York Farm Bureau spokesperson Steve Ammerman says the trade war just adds another layer of instability.
"Their crops are already in the ground and growing. Right now, some of them aren't sure if they're going to have a market to sell what's in the ground, but there's no going back. That does create some anxiety that's increased for farmers already struggling with a down farm economy. Net farm income is down about 50 percent of what it was just a few years ago."
Ammerman says already rock-bottom milk prices are down another 10 percent, threatening the viability of the state’s dairy farms. Other key commodities like corn are off 17 percent and soybeans tanked 20 percent in just the past month. He says one Finger Lakes winery was told their contracts with china were cancelled due to the trade dispute. Ammerman says the aid will be helpful, but it’s only a one shot deal.
"Ultimately what we've been advoacating for are open markets, not subsidies or aid. Our farmers want a place to sell their products. That's what we're encouraging our lawmakers to do is to try and get to a quick resolution and restore the ability for our farmers to be able to sell what we produce here in New York."
He says the escalating international trade war could spur market problems even within our own borders. For example, Ammerman says Washington state lost 40 percent of its apple market to Mexico.
"You may think, 'oh, that doesn't affect New York.' Well, apples grown in Washington, if they're not going to Mexico, they ahve to go somewhere. They could potentially come east, and filter into some of our markets that our apple growers traditionally fill. We could lose some market share there."
The apple business is critical to both states...Washington is number one, and New York is number two in the nation. Ammerman worries lost markets overseas could take years to get back even if the trade war is resolved.