Tariffs And Trade Tensions Spur East Idaho County To Take Action

Jul 13, 2018

Worried about increasing trade tensions with China, officials in Power County quickly organized a meeting between area businesses and government officials.
Credit Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

Earlier this week, the Trump Administration threatened China with $200 billion in new tariffs as trade relations between the superpowers continue to fray. The tit-for-tat has some communities in Idaho concerned and looking for answers.

Eastern Idaho's Power County is heavily reliant on agriculture, which means it falls in the cross hairs of recent Chinese tariffs.

A report by the left-leaning Brookings Institute includes Power County among the top 15 U.S. counties affected by this newest regime of levies. It states nearly 40 percent of jobs there in food processing could be affected. 

In response to the latest salvo from China, leaders from Power County met in American Falls with state and federal lawmakers on short notice.

“We had representation from Risch’s office, Simpson’s office and Crapo,” says Power County Commissioner Ron Funk.

According to Funk, businesses looking for information were Simplot, the hay operation at Driscoll Brothers and Mountain States Oilseeds.

“It gave an opportunity for the local businesses to share their concerns and to see what kind of plan there was going forward,” Funk says. “A lot of information was shared back and forth on how much trade we actually do in foreign markets here out of Idaho, which is kind of impressive.”

While overall exports from Idaho to China decreased by 43 percent between 2016 and 2017, food and agriculture exports grew by almost 35 percent and were valued at $61 million.

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