By Kolt Buchenroth, Zach Parrott and Joel Penhorwood
Tariffs Hurt the Heartland — the nationwide grassroots campaign against tariffs — in conjunction with the Council of the Great Lakes Region, hosted a town hall this week in Cleveland at the 2019 Great Lakes Economic Forum.
The event featured a discussion with Ohio business owners, manufacturers and farmers on the impact of tariffs on the state’s economy. The conversation came one day after President Trump announced that he will be increasing tariffs substantially this week.
The group released the following statement regarding the tweet announcement that tariffs on $200 billion of goods will increase from 10 to 25% on Friday.
“For 10 months, Americans have been paying the full cost of the trade war, not China. To be clear, tariffs are taxes that Americans pay, and this sudden increase with little notice will only punish U.S farmers, businesses and consumers,” Tariffs Hurt the Heartland said in the statement. “If the President follows through on this threat, the consequences will be dire. Raising tariffs to 25% could cost nearly one million American jobs, according to recent estimates. This decision will also roil financial markets and increase the likelihood of retaliation on American farmers who are facing the lowest income levels in years.”
A recent study by the non-partisan economic research firm the Trade Partnership found that if tariffs are increased to 25% it would result in 29,100 job losses in Ohio.
Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, talked with Ohio Ag Net’s Joel Penhorwood following the meeting.
Listen to the full interview here
“Trade has always been a simple thing in agriculture,” Nicholson said during the group conversation. “We know that we can outcompete in production of food in the world. When there is a tariff coming, that means that there is some form of retaliation. The retaliation will quickly affect agricultural products like soybeans, corn and wheat. If the price of soybean plummets, because of a trade war with China, it causes a overproduction of another product like corn, and low profitability of soybean. The impact is compounded. The livestock industry is also affected, because our corn and soybean goes into the feed of livestock animals.
“Agriculture needs a win. We are in a depressed economic state. Any benefit we see in the future will come from trades and exports with other countries.”
Agriculture isn’t the only industry seeing hard times in part because of tariffs. The motor industry has recently stepped out with their perspective, especially since Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana lead the way for employment in automobile manufacturing.
“Twenty percent of employment has grown in the midwest, because of vehicle manufacturing and production has grown, as well as investments from the suppliers,” said Ann Wilson, senior vice president, Government Affairs, Motor, and Equipment Manufacturers Association. “Steel and aluminum tariffs raise the price of domestic steel and aluminum has increased 50% from last year. Most developers are small manufacturers. They have to pay more for their inputs of steel. President Trump has a study on his desk, that has not been made public that could put a 25% tariff on all imported automobile parts. Companies like O’Reilly and NAPA are not investing in the United States, including Ohio, because of the uncertainty whether or not they can make imports. Employment will decrease and consumer prices will increase.”
The beverages industry has also seen some troubling results, according to Cleveland Whiskey founder and CEO Tom Lix.
“In 2017, 15% of business came from exports to the UK, they were predicted to go up to 20% by 2018. By 2018 there was not a single bottle of Cleveland Whiskey sold in Europe. The tariff causes the prices on the whiskey to be marked up. The tariff caused the whiskey prices to be increased by 50%. Cleveland Whiskey had to fire two employees, because they could not afford to have them,” Lix said. “We buy things from around the world everyday and it is crazy to me that we aren’t encouraging those kinds of trades. The fact that we are manipulating these trade deals and using it as a political tool is absolutely absurd, and it hurts a whole lot of people. Mark my words, the economy won’t stay this good forever. We are making things worse for ourselves.”
The group was also joined by Ed Brzytwa, director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council as well as Mark Fisher of the Council of the Great Lakes Region and Farmers for Free Trade co-founder Angela Marshall Hofmann.