The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of TheGeorgiaVirtue.com.
Dwight Davis is a pecan farmer from Hawkinsville, Georgia.
I am a pecan farmer from Hawkinsville, Georgia. From this unlikely location, I have been a witness to, and victim of, two related macro-economic forces: inflation and tariffs. Inflation is causing the cost of producing pecans to skyrocket. Tariffs have contributed to inflation while causing the prices I receive for pecans to crater.
While inflation is surging across the United States, we are feeling the burden more heavily here in the south. Atlanta, for example, has seen an increased inflation rate of 10.6% since 2021, the second highest rate of any city in America. No one is immune from these rising prices, but they have hit farmers particularly hard. My fertilizer costs are up over 40% year over year. Fuel prices are up over 30% during that same time.
While there are many causes to our current inflationary spiral, many of them relate back to 2018 when then President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on selected Chinese goods. The Chinese retaliated by imposing tariffs on U.S. farm exports, including a 47% tariff on pecans. In 2017, before the tariffs, China purchased 40% of the U.S. pecan crop. In 2018, after tariffs, China purchased no U.S. pecans and instead purchased cheaper, lower quality, Mexican pecans.
In 2019, former President Trump signed the Phase One Trade Agreement in which China agreed to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of American goods in 2020 and 2021. Actual purchases during these years fell short by about 40%. China’s purchase of U.S. pecans has resumed but are less than 1/3 of the purchases in 2017. The “gate price” American pecan farmers receive for their crops has dropped by 30% from 2017, before tariffs, to 2020, after the Phase One Trade Agreement was implemented and some China trade resumed.
Thus, not only has China yet to purchase the amount of agreed upon goods, but the tariffs still remain in place. These taxes have not forced China to uphold their purchase agreement or structural changes and have actually caused intense financial burdens on Americans. One of the more damaging aspects of these tariffs is that they don’t diminish the underlying need for these imports as American businesses still rely on these imported parts and components to operate. They are just forced to pay higher prices which they pass onto consumers – and farmers. Lifting these tariffs may not immediately put our economy back on track, but it is a step in the right direction.
Our nation’s pecan industry is a prime example of tariffs affecting everyday Americans. Tree nut farmers were hit with retaliatory tariffs which caused Chinese buyers to look for less expensive replacements. Even with the purchase agreements in the Phase One Trade Agreement, China has not lived up to its obligations and the pecan industry is still struggling to recover from this trade war.
If President Joe Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai are serious about helping the economy recover, repealing tariffs should be at the top of their list. I am hopeful that the Biden administration will work alongside Congress to find a solution. I know that the State of Georgia can count on Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA-3) who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and has supported tariff relief in the past to be a voice of economic reason. Likewise, representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2), has been a strong voice for farmers in Congress. We need our legislators in Washington to understand that business owners and consumers are doing everything in their power to keep our economy afloat. Please do not sit idly by without using all of the resources this country has at its disposal to help Americans. Please repeal these harmful tariffs immediately.