Some Washington industries, agriculture wary of more China tariffs

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OLYMPIA -- China's plan to raise tariffs in retaliation to U.S. tariffs has some growers and farmers in Washington state wringing their hands.

Following Monday's news of the tariffs, Q13 News reached out to a variety of agriculture groups in the state. The groups included the Washington Apple Commission, the Washington Potato Commission, the Washington Grain Commission and the shellfish industry, among others.

Many said a variety of issues come from raising tariffs, including lost revenue.

Chris Voigt of the Washington Potato Commission said the state's robust potato industry has weathered the storm so far. China is buying more European Union potatoes over the American crop, but growers still saw a six percent bump in sales to China last year.

And any sales the state is losing to China are recouped in other markets, Voight said.

"The domestic market and international market has actually been red hot for potatoes and french fries," Voight said. "So what we're losing in China we've been able to divert to other countries."

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A spokesperson with the Washington Grain Commission said the latest round of tariffs won't impact grain growers in Washington, only because their exports to the country were already killed.

The spokesperson said China used to import nearly 300,000 metric tons of grain each year. That number went to zero as soon as tariff talk started in 2018. Grain growers still sell overseas, but have seen a 10 percent cut in overall business since China's moves, the spokesperson said.

Todd Fryhover with the Washington Apple Commission said apple growers won't be impacted by the latest round of tariffs, but are still feeling the pinch from last year. China is the number six market in the world for apples, Fryhover said, and year-to-date shipments are down 32.1 percent overall to the country.

The Department of Natural Resources and Taylor Shellfish's director of public affairs said they are unsure how new tariffs will impact the shellfish industry in Washington. Still, volatility in the market already upset by recent tariffs is not a good thing for business, a spokesperson with the DNR said.

Sound Tranit's ORCA card system was impacted by Monday's announcement. The price of an ORCA card has increased 48 cents per card. The cards, which are made in China, cost $2.40 per card compared to $1.92 last year.

Rather than pass the cost to consumers, the ORCA Joint Board approved taking nearly $400,000 from the agency's contingency budget to cover the cost.

No additional costs would be levied to consumers due to tariffs until at least 2021, said Scott Thompson of Sound Transit.

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