Aluminum and steel tariffs spark concern for Nebraska leaders


As President Trump's administration moves forward with tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, with the exception of trade with Canada and Mexico, Nebraska leaders are speaking out against it. Many said the tariffs will hurt Nebraska's ag economy, as well as raise prices for goods that use aluminum and steel.

Senator Ben Sasse released the following statement regarding tariffs on aluminum and steel:

We’re on the verge of a painful and stupid trade war, and that’s bad. This isn't just bad for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska who need to buy a new tractor, it’s also bad for the moms and dads who will lose their manufacturing jobs because fewer people can buy a more expensive product. Temporary exceptions for Canada and Mexico are encouraging but bad policy is still bad policy, and these constant NAFTA threats are nuts.

Congressman Adrian Smith released the following statement on Thursday:

I understand President Trump’s desire to put an end to unfair trade practices, but the best way to accomplish this goal is through targeted policies rather than blanket tariffs,” Smith said. “While I appreciate the President listening to our case for exempting Canada and Mexico, these tariffs should be further narrowed in order to reduce unintended consequences.
Due to the success of our ag producers, this industry is often the first to be targeted with retaliatory measures by other countries. I have been steadfast in advocating against actions which could harm the ag economy, and I remain deeply concerned about these tariffs in their current form.
We know tariffs translate to higher costs for consumers. At a time when we are experiencing great economic benefits from tax reform, we should focus on opening more markets rather than enacting barriers.

Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, released the following statement:

Today’s irresponsible action by President Trump to place tariffs on imported steel and aluminum puts Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and consumers on the front line of a possible global trade war. The casualties of this conflict will unfortunately be the pocketbooks of all Americans.
Even with the exemption of Canada and Mexico, Nebraska risks more than $3.72 billion dollars in agricultural exports, or 58 percent of Nebraska’s total export market.
While we anticipate retaliatory measures to be both strategic and overtly political, markets that Nebraska farmers and ranchers have worked hard to build and maintain should not be victims of President Trumps misguided attempts to correct our nation’s trade imbalance.
This is not just about farmers and ranchers. U.S. consumers also stand to pay the ultimate price in both lost jobs and higher priced goods that rely on a steady supply of imported steel and aluminum.
With more than 30 percent of U.S. gross farm income depending on agricultural exports, and with so many farmers and ranchers riding the line between profitability and economic calamity, today’s action only serves to destabilize the agricultural economy further.

The American Soybean Association released the following statement:

These tariffs are a disastrous course of action from the White House. They may lead to retaliation by one or more of our valuable trading partners, which in turn will kneecap demand for soybeans in a time when the farm economy is struggling. We have heard directly from the Chinese that U.S. soybeans are prime targets for retaliation. The idea that we’re the only game in town, and these partners have no choice but to purchase from the U.S. is flatly wrong. Our competition in Brazil and Argentina is eager to capitalize on whatever openings these tariffs create for them in markets like China and elsewhere.
Throughout this process, we’ve met with officials at Commerce, with Treasury, with USTR and with White House staff. It is unfortunate that our input was not taken into account given the announcement today. While we are deeply disappointed and concerned, we reaffirm our commitment to sit down with the president and communicate the importance of trade for soybean farmers. There is absolutely a way to encourage growth in domestic industry without cannibalizing the success of agricultural trade. With these tariffs, the administration has taken the opposite approach, and sacrificed the progress and potential of farmers.

Senator Deb Fischer released the following statement:

“I support the need to modernize our trade agreements, but I am concerned about the impact these new tariffs on steel and aluminum will have on Nebraska agriculture. For months, I have been working with my colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration to clearly communicate the need to maintain market access for our world-class ag producers and manufacturers. I met in person with President Trump in December and I had breakfast with White House Chief of Staff General Kelly this week. In these meetings, I stressed the importance of agriculture to Nebraska’s economy.”

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