Livestock and poultry groups say retaliatory trade tariffs are costing their industries billions in decreased sales and loss of potential market growth.
Representatives of the pork, turkey, poultry, cattle, and sheep industry shared those concerns during a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
“We can’t urge you enough to keep these trade doors open,” David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said at the hearing.
Herring noted in his testimony pork producers are losing “$8 per animal, or $1 billion on an annualized, industry-wide basis” because of China’s 62% tariff on pork.
If the tariffs weren’t in place, U.S. pork producers would be in a prime position to supply China with the pork they need while the country combats African Swine Fever, he added.
Subcommittee Chair Jim Costa, D-Calif., said the administration’s “tariff-like attitude” hasn’t helped long-standing issues for producers.
“I grew up on our family’s farm with the notion that farmers, ranchers, and dairymen are price takers not price makers,” Costa noted.
The trade war with China has also been challenging for U.S. wool exports to the country. Since the tariffs were implemented, “we have seen raw wool exports drop by 85% and sheep skins drop by nearly 70% in value,” Steve Salmon, operations manager for the American Sheep Industry Association said.
Hearing witnesses also called on Congress to ratify the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement as soon as possible. Costa told reporters he’s hopeful House Democrats can reach an agreement with President Donald Trump on the pact by the fall.
Aside from trade policy, the groups also said labor remains a substantial concern for their members.
“You can’t raise more birds without more people,” Minnesota turkey farmer John Zimmerman said. “We’ve gone down the automation route. A lot of the processing plants have increased automation but at the end of the day, you still need people in those plants to do things.”
The processing industry, he emphasized, is different from the vegetable industry: It needs labor all year and not just during the growing seasons.
Minnesota Republican Jim Hagedorn agreed with needed changes to the immigration system, but stressed workers should come to the U.S. legally. “Until we secure the borders, until we have an immigration system that works, that can’t be circumvented, those programs are worthless.”
The Trump Administration on Monday announced a proposed rule to enact changes in the H-2A farmworker visa program, including streamlining the application process and addressing wage calculation.