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Local farmers talk tariffs and impacts on business at round table discussion

Posted: 6:43 PM, Aug 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-17 02:02:12Z

Kern County farmers gathered at Murray Family Farms on Thursday to talk export tariffs and discuss the impacts they're having on local agriculture.

"This roundtable, like ones we're holding all over the United States, are an opportunity for farmers to talk about trade, and to convey that to their elected officials," said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade.

The discussion was held Thursday morning and served as a time for farmers and exporters to talk about the impacts of tariffs imposed by overseas trading partners (namely China), largely in response to President Trump's trade policies.

An example of tariffs affecting business can be seen in the owner of Murray Family Farms, Steve Murray. His main crop is cherries; previous to these tariffs, there was a 15% tariff already in existence. The new tariffs now bring it to 40%, making it more difficult for Murray to move his fruit internationally.

"It's starting to price California produce out of the affordability range for countries we're negotiating with on free trade," Murray said. "We support the President on having fairer trade, what we would like to do is have a fast resolution."

Those who export the product are also feeling the effects. Harmeet Dhinsda is the general manager of Infinity 8 National Trade, which exports products from places including Arizona, Washington and Texas to southeast Asia, primarily China. He's seen the impacts of the tariffs firsthand.

"We'd shipped about 77,000 cartons of Valencia Oranges, which is roughly 70 forty foot containers, into China [at this time] last year. This year we've done three containers," Dhindsa said.

The issues also extend to farmers who ship their product domestically. Farmers at the luncheon said that the tariffs may result in more product staying in the U.S., meaning there will be a surplus and saturation of the market, which will force prices down to stay competitive. 

The discussion was held until just before noon, with some in attendance set to speak with Representative David Valadao on Thursday afternoon.