When China added a 25% tax on soybeans in retaliation to U.S. tariffs last year, Colorado’s farming community shrugged it off. Soybeans aren’t much of a crop here.
But nationwide, large patches of Midwestern soybean farmland switched to corn. That, in turn, meant more corn would stay in the U.S., driving down prices for Yuma County farmers like Jeremy Fix.
“Right now, commodity prices whether it be corn, wheat, soybeans, they’re all low,” said Fix, who kept to planting corn and wheat at his Aggie Farms in Wray. “And a lot of people, including me, are in a pinch right now. They can produce a lot of it. But it takes a lot of it to just cover our costs.”
For more than a decade, the state has seen an amazing growth in agriculture exports with the value of Colorado-grown food heading out of the country increasing to $2 billion last year. Agricultural exports have grown nearly every year in the past decade. But this year, they’re down 15%, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture.
The decline is being watched by state legislators who are concerned about the impact on business confidence and the state economy. In the latest Economic & Revenue forecast report, Colorado exports overall in the first seven months this year were down 6.4% from the same period of 2018. Hardest hit are food and agriculture products including corn (-44.5%), wheat (-56%), cheese (-75.9%) and whiskey (-79.8%).
“There’s not a lot the state can do (on federal trade wars), but it’s having a huge impact on the state budget,” said Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “It’s the domino effect.”
China’s tariffs on steel mean the state’s department of transportation is paying more for the rebar used to build roads. Tariffs on clothing, cars and smartphones mean consumers will pay more for those goods, so the cost of living goes up.
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