Trade spat with China has farmers in Trump country "very, very concerned"

Concern in farm country over tariffs

TIPTON, Ind. -- Trade tensions between the U.S. and China escalated Wednesday, after Beijing threatened $50 billion dollars in import tariffs on more than 100 products made in America, including soybeans, beef, cars and planes. The announcement came hours after the U.S. targeted 1,300 Chinese goods for tariffs.

But just the threat of a trade war is sending shock waves through farm country, including at Keith Schoettmer's pork farm.

"Certainly any time we feel that there's going to be a disruption in exports, we're gonna feel squeezed," he said.

The discomfort over talk of a trade war with China extends far beyond Schoettmer's Tipton, Indiana, spread.

reynolds-famers-tariffs-bulk-il-3-rem64-frame-585.jpg
Keith Schoettmer CBS News

"If we had the opportunity to talk to President Trump, we would just reiterate just how vitally important the exports are to our industry," Schoettmer said.

Last year, the U.S. exported $1.1 billion worth of pork to China. It's an industry that supports about 550,000 jobs in mostly rural America which voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, including Schoettmer.

"We just have to believe that there's more to these negotiations than we understand, but at this point in time, we are very, very concerned," he said.

Since 2000, the U.S. has been one of the world's top five pork exporters. China gets about 9 percent of the 5 billion pounds America sends abroad. The Chinese have also announced new tariffs on American soybeans, with potentially even graver financial consequences for farmers. Fifty-six percent of all U.S. soybean exports go to China.

Over the last few weeks, the commodities markets have been dipping amid concerns that the trade war rhetoric could becoming a reality, and that China's move to retaliate against Mr. Trump is another big step in the wrong direction.

Announcing tariffs is different than actually imposing them. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the issue will be under review for a couple of months, giving the Chinese an opportunity to change their behavior.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.