Young farmer Reese Foster prepares to power-wash a gigantic cotton picker earlier this year at his home near Dawson, Georgia. Foster and many other farmers are carrying over debt into 2019 because bad weather ruined crops. Chinese tariffs are also destabilizing the market for cotton, pecans, peanuts and other Georgia crops, which has a broader economic impact on the state. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia farmers would be hurt by China’s retaliatory tariffs

Georgia farmers, already a casualty in the U.S.-China trade war, may have to take another hit for the team.

After the U.S. increased tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods Friday, China retaliated Monday with higher tariffs on $60 billion of American products. Among the items facing tariffs of up to 25% as of June 1 are Georgia farm staples cotton, peanuts, soybeans and pecans.

Many in the agricultural community understand the reasons for the trade war with China even if they don’t like the results. The Trump administration has accused China of stealing American technology, creating unfair rules for American companies, and keeping markets closed to foreign goods, such as its current ban on U.S. chicken imports, which is another big Georgia export.

Southwest Georgia farmer Jimmy Webb said he is for the fight, though he knows what the short-term result could be.

“Well, it’s going to have a negative impact on prices until something gets worked out,” he said.

He is in the middle of planting 2,000 acres of cotton and 1,000 acres of peanuts.

“Anytime something political gets involved in trade, it’s never going to be good,” Webb said.

Georgia farmers were already hurt last year when China imposed tariffs of 5% to 10% on many American products in the first round of the trade war. Then they suffered when Hurricane Michael swept through, destroying more than $2 billion of crops.

“Would farm families love for this to be over yesterday? Certainly. Should China cease retaliatory and illegal trade practices? Most definitely,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black wrote in an emailed response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Targeting farmers as a tool of state is never acceptable. Hopefully our good customers will return to negotiations soon,” Black added in the email. “In the meantime, their consumers and our farmers are the ones who will suffer.”

Webb is hopeful there will be a resolution.

“I really thought, and still do think, that (President Donald) Trump will get some sort of deal done before the election because he knows if this is still going on, he is going to lose support,” he said.

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