The latest round of tariffs levied by the Trump Administration is taking a toll on the nation’s agriculture industry. In Florida, the tariffs threaten a trade deal that’s been years in the making.
Bud Chiles, son of former Governor Lawton Chiles, runs a 50-acre commercial and you-pick blueberry farm called Jubilee Orchards about fifteen miles northeast of Tallahassee. He began farming full-time about 10 years ago.
“And all this was a stretch for a lot of reasons, but blueberries made sense." Chiles said of starting a blueberry farm. "There's the University of Florida and University of Georgia – a lot of expertise, a lot of growers, great markets. And a lot of people that would help us along the way. So, we embarked on it in a really pretty big way.”
But an escalating trade war with China is casting a dark cloud over Florida’s blueberry industry, threatening the future of farms like Chiles'. In recent years, President Donald Trump has imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods, citing a national security risk. The U.S. has a trade deficit with China, meaning we import more goods than we export, and in Trump’s eyes, that’s not good.
But the U.S.-levied tariffs have led China to impose retaliatory tariffs on American goods. That’s taken a toll on domestic industries, particularly farmers. And the tariffs threaten more than just individual farmers. They could derail a trade deal with China that’s been years in the making.
In 2012, the Florida Agriculture Department started talks with China to export blueberries. Part of the process requires Chinese inspectors to verify quality, including production practices, pest management and harvest procedures.
News.wfsu.org explains that after seven years of negotiations, the compulsory visit by China's General Administration of Quality Supervisors, Inspection, and Quarantine finally occurred last month. The Chinese delegation, accompanied by members of the state Agriculture Department's Division of Plant Industries and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, toured blueberry farms in Gainesville and Orlando.
Shortly after, Trump imposed a new round of tariffs. And these new tariffs, officials say, could jeopardize the deal. "Florida is on the verge of exporting blueberries, one of our state's top crops, to China – but these new tariffs threaten that trade opportunity," said Nikki Fried, the state's agriculture commissioner. "If President Trump is serious about putting America first, he should start by putting Florida farmers first – not by inciting trade wars with China.”