The tariff relief funds that were recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will likely only have a limited impact on California growers. The $12 billion-dollar tariff assistance package contains three programs designed to bridge the gap in the market caused by recent tariff increases. The financial support is appreciated by the industry; however, the programs were primarily designed for crops generally grown in states other than California.
“It’s pretty limited what they’re going to be able to do that has specific benefit for specialty crops,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “Secretary Perdue is working the best he can with the tools that he has, but that’s all funded [Commodity Credit Corporation], which is primarily for Title 1 commodity crops.”
Of the programs developed through the tariff relief funds, Secretary Ross noted that the food purchase and distribution may offer some slight benefits for California, but the serious concern on the mind of many growers is the future of the market. “It’s a critically important shipping year for us to markets where we have grown significantly…and if we lose one year, it could have two or three years implications”
Prior to the USDA announcement, Secretary Ross was recently joined by a group of agricultural leaders in a discussion with Governor Jerry Brown on the trade issues and tariff impacts facing California. The nature of California’s production makes the tariffs particularly important. “California farmers especially, are very market driven and we have built those markets over decades one relationship at a time. We don’t have gigantic organizations that are out promoting us, it’s one company, one farmer, one small region at a time,” Secretary Ross stated.
California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation, making foreign markets that have the purchasing power that China has extremely significant for an agricultural operations bottom line. Many growers have voiced frustration concerning the current trade politics taking place. Secretary Ross said that “I don’t know any farmer that wouldn’t prefer to just keep growing markets and growing what meets the demand of consumers regardless of what country they reside in.”
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