Several months back at the start of the trade tensions between the Trump White House and China, I spoke with Larry George, CEO of the Northwest Hazelnut Co., who was hopeful for a positive resolution to the negotiations. Mr. George saw the opportunity for a win-win for both American growers and the Chinese consumer, who adore Oregon hazelnuts due to their specific taste.
“I am a free trade guy…However, I am reluctantly surprised at the opportunity,” he added. “We have faced 25% tariffs on exports to China for some time; this is a chance to change that,” he optimistically stated in December.
The legacy Western media has made a big deal about farmers being hurt by Trump’s tariffs and have used the issue in an attempt to drive down the support for POTUS and his America First policy.
As the trade war drags on into mid-2019, I thought it would be useful to speak with Mr. George again, to check the growers’ temperature when it comes to their support for the White House position in the conflict; Mr. George was happy to provide more feedback in a lengthy conversation this week.
“For the most part, American agriculture understands what Trump is trying to do and we are supportive. The unfair trade practices of China have to be confronted and we are willing to keep bearing the brunt of this necessity.
“However, this war is mainly about intellectual property rights and American farmers have nothing to do with that. IP issues mainly impact the hi-tech companies of Silicon valley.
“What is surprising, shocking actually, is the lack of awareness of these hi-tech companies as to the hardships U.S. agriculture is facing for them. There is no support coming from Silicon Valley. They are strangely silent. You would think they would at least say thank you, and support this president as he attempts to improve their bottoms line, but there is nothing (paraphrasing).
“The White House and the federal agencies have been super supportive. The have provided some relief, but we are not asking for handouts. We want what’s best for America and the President understands that.
“Our congressional delegation has also been very supportive, even though previously as a legislator it was my job to stymie their initiatives on the other side. Our representative here in Oregon could not be more accommodative to our concerns.
“What is even more surprising is that the Chinese have reached out repeatedly to us and asked what we would need to sell more product into China, if there is a trade deal. And, that is a ‘big if’.
“The only group we haven’t heard from is the American big tech. I really don’t understand this. We are taking it on the chin and it’s like they don’t even care. It doesn’t even register with them.
I mentioned that possibly this phenomenon exists because much of the leadership of American big tech were not born in America. Silicon Valley is also heavily involved in China and even helping to develop Chinese surveillance systems for the Communist Party to watch and control their own citizens. Regarding the silence, George made very clear his surprise and almost disgust with American tech titans.
“If this is not solved soon, we will have to diversify back away from China, and develop new, premium markets in Europe and elsewhere,” Mr. George explained in December. “We produce in-shell nuts, not kernels. The taste is unique and the Chinese love them.”
“We have made it through this season. The question is whether we can do the same next year if this conflict continues. We have to maintain good prices for our farmers,” he continued. “However, we are optimistic the issue of retaliatory tariffs can be solved.
“We are looking to fundamentally change the relationship between China and the United States. I could be a huge benefit for Oregon hazelnut growers. No tariffs at all would be best, again, a win-win for both sides.”
The legacy media is trying very hard to paint a dark economic picture of the impact Trump’s tariffs are having on American agriculture. Obviously, the actually feelings of American farmers are different than what is being portrayed. We will continue to monitor developments in this sector as the trade war continues and possibly intensifies.