Jeff Colombini
Jeff Colombini

Jeff Colombini, a prominent California grower and board member of USApple, expressed deep concerns over growing trade tensions initiated by the Trump administration.

He spoke at a press event organized by Farmers for Free Trade.  Colombini was Good Fruit Grower‘s Grower of the Year in 2013.

President Trump has talked of a trade war with China and of ending the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Here’s the release from USApple:

Acampo, Calif. (April 26, 2018)—Speaking today on behalf of the U.S. Apple Association (USApple), California grower and USApple Secretary Jeff Colombini said escalating trade tensions will only hurt U.S. agriculture producers. Speaking at a press event in Acampo, Calif., alongside other California growers and state agriculture leaders, Colombini discussed the importance of maintaining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and duty-free access to the Chinese market.

“NAFTA is critical to the economic health of both the California and U.S. apple industries,” said Colombini, president of Lodi Farming, Inc., located in the northern San Joaquin Valley.“Under the agreement, the apple industry has quadrupled its exports to Mexico and doubled its exports to Canada with combined purchases of nearly $450 million per year.”

According to USApple, growers have benefitted greatly under NAFTA.  Prior to the agreement, Mexico imposed a 20 percent tariff on U.S. apple imports. Now, with duty free access, Mexico is the U.S. apple industry’s largest export market, followed by Canada. Maintaining NAFTA without interruption, including current dispute resolution provisions, is a top priority for USApple.

Colombini also spoke about the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs on agriculture commodities, including a 15 percent tariff on U.S. apples.

“This is a tremendous concern as China has significant growth potential because it doesn’t grow the many apple varieties we grow and Chinese consumers are excited to experience those unique taste profiles,” Colombini told reporters. “The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China will hurt apple growers’ ability to maintain and expand this emerging market.”

The U.S. apple industry achieved full access to the Chinese market in 2015.  Since then, apple exports have grown to 2.5 million boxes per year and China is now the apple industry’s sixth largest export market.  Overall, roughly $3 billion in new Chinese tariffs have been put into place on U.S. agriculture products in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from China.

“Trade is critical to the health and future of the entire apple industry,” concluded Colombini.  “If the apples meant for export don’t find homes overseas, they come here to California and they go to the East Coast.  This leads to supply issues and impacts everyone’s bottom line.”

The press event, organized by Farmers for Free Trade, was held at LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards. Other speakers included: California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson and Farmers for Free Trade Executive Director Brian Kuehl, among other growers and agriculture leaders.