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Arizona agriculture industry worried after China halts product purchases

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

PHOENIX — China announced this week it’s no longer buying American crops and livestock after President Donald Trump’s recent tariff increases, and that has Arizona farmers and ranchers worried.

“We do anticipate that it will hurt our agriculture industry,” said Julie Murphree, outreach director for the Arizona Farm Bureau. “We don’t have specific information on how much, but it’ll certainly affect the crops that are exported to China – the biggest ones are cotton, beef and tree nuts.”

Mexico is Arizona’s number one trade partner, followed by Canada.

Though China falls lower in the list of Arizona’s top export destinations – it’s among the top 15 – Murphree said the state’s farmers and ranchers are concerned by China’s decision.

“When we’re already hurting in farm and ranch country, this is very much taken note of by our farmers and ranchers here in Arizona,” she said.
Murphree said Arizona’s export of cotton could be hit the hardest.

“The reason is locally and nationally, we rely heavily on China as a cotton buyer,” she said. “Arizona exports about 70 percent of our cotton crop and 20 percent of that goes to China.”

Last week, Trump announced he would impose a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese products, escalating the trade war with China.

The president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Tuesday the administration stands ready to help American farmers affected by this.

Murphree said farmers and ranchers appreciate the help.

“But we’d much rather have the trade than the aid, as we always say, because markets move things and there’s more opportunities when markets are moving,” she said. “When a market is shut down, especially in agriculture, it’s tough to bring it back.”

She added it’s possible China could look elsewhere for U.S. agricultural products, and it could be difficult to reverse that.

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