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US, California Farmers Fret Over Possible Trade War After Trump Agriculture Decisions

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California leads the country in agricultural revenue, and its farmers and ranchers are twice as dependent on foreign trade as the country as a whole. (Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

It took Donald Trump 71 days to settle on an Agriculture secretary after winning the presidency. It took him 72 hours after that to unsettle much of the agriculture industry.

First, the freshly inaugurated president withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, a 12-nation pact that was expected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by more than $7 billion annually over the coming decades, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Then, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president was thinking about financing his long-promised southern border wall with a 20% tax on “imports from deficit countries, like Mexico.”

That announcement, followed by a flurry of clarifications and caveats, appears to be part of a plan for a massive tax overhaul aimed at altering the trade balance country by country. U.S. farmers, who get about 20% of their annual revenue from trade, could be hit especially hard if countries choose to retaliate. Consumers, too, would suffer if a border tax increases the price of foreign food.

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