Farmers and clothing firms in Colorado hit hard by tariffs

World Today

In Colorado, clothing firms and farmers are both hurting from the tariffs in the U.S.- China trade war.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Steve Nein has been farming and ranching for some 45 years. These are tough times on the Colorado prairie.

Several years of low crop prices punctuated by a trade war have left Nein and his fellow farmers on edge.

“You might get behind a little this year, a little more next year,” Nein said. “Well we’re in about the fifth year and then with these tariffs, putting these prices lower, definitely they’re concerned.”

300 kilometers (186 miles) to the west, at a women’s sportswear company called Krimson Klover.

“We specialize in knitwear, mainly sweaters, and the best knitters in the world are in China,” said C.E.O. Rhonda Swenson.

She worries about today’s tariffs and the $300 billion in duties the Trump Administration threatens to impose on China in the very near future.

“The final round is everything we do, everything,” Swenson said. “So we’re reeling a little bit. It’s going to be a pretty big hit.”

They’re two very different lines of work. But whether it’s higher prices the clothing firm pays for its products, or the lower prices the farmer gets for his crops, the U.S.-China trade dispute is making its presence felt in the heartland.

Nein grows wheat, which some soybean farmers east of here are turning to now that China has largely stopped buying their original crop. That has a ripple effect.

“Anytime you flood one market then we’re going to have lower prices and this wheat, the prices haven’t hardly been breaking even on that either,” Nein said.

Previous tariffs increased the costs of Krimson Klover, which is a wholesaler. A potential last round will inevitably be passed on to its 475 U.S. retailers.

“We have to,” Swenson said. “We have to make margin… There’s no way pricing isn’t going up. I mean it has to. And so the end consumer will start feeling it.”

Workarounds are in short supply in both places. Nein has thought about expanding his cow herd but China placed tariffs on U.S. beef.

“It did knock our cattle, our calf price down some,” he said.

Swenson has put expansion at her company on hold and is looking into using factories in countries besides China.

“It takes us 18-24 months to bring a product to market so you can’t just up and move,” she said.

Suddenly, the trade issue takes up a lot of their day.

“When one guy (Trump) can just impose tariffs, that is not right because it affects millions of lives and families out here in the rural areas that voted for the guy you know,” Nein said. “So that’s a concern.”

“I don’t understand how we can make such quick decisions that affect so many people in so many ways,” Swenson said.

Whether in the city, or the country, the landscape has changed for many business people. They’re now busy figuring out if and how they can adjust.