Tina Smith

United States Senator for Minnesota

Sen. Tina Smith: Farmers Shouldn’t Bear Burden of President Trump’s Tariff Increases

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Senator Calls On Trump Administration to Lay Out Detailed Strategy to Address Effects Of Tariff Actions on Farmers in Minnesota, Across Nation

WASHINGTON [07/23/18]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) shared concerns with top officials in the Trump administration about the effects the President’s recent tariff increases will have on farmers in Minnesota and across the country.

Sen. Smith believes that the United States must take action to address trading practices that threaten U.S. jobs. However, she believe such actions must be done in a thoughtful, strategic way. In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Sen. Smith—a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee—called for the Trump Administration to provide clear answers to farmers, ranchers, and the many Minnesotans who struggle to see a coherent, long-term economic strategy driving President Trump’s actions.

“Many Minnesota farmers and ranchers have grown increasingly concerned about the haphazard implementation of the tariffs and the effects of recently imposed tariffs on farmers’ ability to sell their products,” wrote Sen. Smith in her letter. “For instance, according to Minnesota agriculture producers, soybean futures are approaching their lowest levels in two years; from early March through May producers lost an estimated $18 per hog; and barrel cheese prices are at the lowest levels since 2009. The timing of the tariffs is of great urgency to Minnesota farmers, because they follow several years of already depressed commodity prices—a situation that is at or near a crisis for many farmers.”

“I believe it is necessary to promptly provide a clear, detailed plan for minimizing the negative effects for farmers of President Trump’s tariffs (and associated retaliation). While Secretary Perdue supported the lack of specific action to date by claiming that ‘it is not good practice to open our playbook while the opposing team is watching,’ I disagree with your equation as a reasonable basis not to provide a clear strategy. American farmers require certainty about future market conditions as they plan for next year’s growing season—not a guessing game about what, if any, action you may take in the future.”

You can read full text of the letter by clicking here or by reading below:

 

July 23, 2018

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW

 

Dear Secretary Perdue and Ambassador Lighthizer:

I write to address President Trump's recent decisions to impose tariffs on an array of imported goods pursuant to Section 232 and Section 301 authorities. I have heard from many Minnesotans about these actions over the last few months, and I believe it is important to ensure that their voices are heard and respected.

I support efforts to preserve a strong U.S. iron and steel industry, and I support cracking down on illegal trade practices by China. That is why earlier this year, I wrote to President Trump calling for action against trade practices that threatened the iron and steel industry that is critical to our defense industrial base.

At the same time, in recent months, many Minnesota farmers and ranchers have grown increasingly concerned about the haphazard implementation of the tariffs and the effects of recently imposed tariffs on farmers' ability to sell their products. For instance, according to Minnesota agriculture producers, soybean futures are approaching their lowest levels in two years; from early March through May producers lost an estimated $18 per hog; and barrel cheese prices are at the lowest levels since 2009. The timing of the tariffs is of great urgency to Minnesota farmers, because they follow several years of already depressed commodity prices—a situation that is at or near a crisis for many farmers.

For those reasons, I am deeply concerned about the impact on farmers of President Trump's recent tariff increases, and I appreciated Secretary Perdue's June op-ed pledging that "we won't leave farmers to face Chinese bullying alone." Unfortunately, this pledge—without any further details—has provided little reassurance to the farmers and ranchers in my state. Many Minnesotans struggle to see any effective plan and strategy driving President Trump's actions.

Therefore, I believe it is necessary to promptly provide a clear, detailed plan for minimizing the negative effects for farmers of President Trump's tariffs (and associated

retaliation). While Secretary Perdue supported the lack of specific action to date by claiming that "it is not good practice to open our playbook while the opposing team is watching," I disagree with your equation as a reasonable basis not to provide a clear strategy. American farmers require certainty about future market conditions as they plan for next year's growing season - not a guessing game about what, if any, action you may take in the future. Further, President Trump appears to disagree with this tack as well, given that he has detailed the next steps he plans to take with respect to Section 301 tariffs—namely imposing additional tariffs on $200 billion tranches of imports from China—thus clearly revealing the next steps he plans to take if that aspect of the tariff battle with China escalates.

I urge the Administration to promptly lay out a detailed strategy to ensure that U.S. farmers don't bear the burden of President Trump's recent tariff increases, and I look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

 

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Issues: 

Washington, D.C. Office

309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5641
 

State Offices

Moorhead Office
819 Center Avenue
Suite 2A
Moorhead, MN 56560
Phone: (218) 284-8721
 

Duluth Office
515 W 1st Street
Suite 104
Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 722-2390
 

State Offices

Saint Paul
60 Plato Blvd. East
Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55107
Phone: (651) 221-1016
 

Rochester
1202-1/2 7th Street NW
Suite 213
Rochester, MN  55901
Phone: (507) 288-2003