Experts in Wisconsin soybean industry fear retaliatory tariffs

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KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. UPDATE: Thursday night China announced a list of U.S. goods including pork, apples and steel pipe on Friday on which it might raise tariffs in an escalating trade dispute with President Donald Trump.

The Commerce Ministry called on Washington to negotiate a settlement to the conflict over higher U.S. import duties on steel and aluminum but set no deadline. - Joe McDonald, Associated Press

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Experts in the soybean industry fear retaliatory tariffs in the wake of The President’s decision to tariff $60 billion worth of Chinese goods. According to the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, the state ranks 13th in US production, and China takes on one third of all exported American soybeans.

Robert Karls, executive director of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, says if China strikes back there would be significant and definite impact to local farmers.

"You know the agriculture economy is challenging enough as it is, so if we have less demand for our product that'll spill over into all areas of agriculture as well as to our communities, if farmers aren't able to you know be profitable in the production of soybean, that'll impact our communities," said Karls.

Kewaunee County soybean, corn and wheat farmer Clark Riemer worries he'll be outcompeted by farmers elsewhere, like South America.

"Beans are at the lowest price they've been in 10 years, if we drop another dollar or two dollars per bushel off of soybeans, it would be very hard for us to remain in business over the long haul," Riemer says.

"It's very concerning, we do have a competitor South America, so South America can export their soybeans to China just as readily as we can, we've always had a good relationship with China in the export market, we worked for many years through our national and international programs to build that relationship, to have those channels set up for the beans to more or less flow over, flow to our different countries but China you know being our number one customer," Karls said.

Karls says there are 18,000 Wisconsin soybean farmers, and many of them are planning to put their seeds down at the beginning of April.

Riemer feels in limbo not knowing what to plant, he fears the price of soybeans and other agricultural commodities will plunge.

"It leads to a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of uncertainty really makes it hard to make decisions and you know go forward into the future here on the farming side of it," Riemer said.