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In a trade war that has been brewing for months, the Trump administration and China officially imposed tariffs on one another Friday, as Iowa farmers worried the conflict would close off markets and hurt their bottom line.

Economists, meanwhile, fretted over the impact to the state's economy.

The Trump administration levied 25 percent duties on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, beginning Friday.

Shortly after, China responded with counter measures.

The Associated Press reported Friday that China's Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, said tariffs were imposed on a line of goods, including soybeans and pork.

In Scott County, the news came as a disappointment at a time when many producers have been expecting higher yields this year. It's "kind of frustrating because now I have to sell a lot more bushels for a lot less money," said Robb Ewoldt, a Blue Grass farmer.

Prices for soybeans have already declined in anticipation of the trade conflict. The average cash price fell to $7.79 per bushel this week, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday.

Friday morning, the Iowa Soybean Association issued a statement urging a quick resolution to the conflict with China. "Time is of the essence," the statement said.

Near Eldridge, Jerry Mohr, a longtime farmer who has been heavily involved in trade issues, said he worried a damaged trading relationship could have a long-term impact.

In the business for 45 years, Mohr is a past president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, and has gone on trade missions advocating for broader trade.

Mohr said Friday he'd been anticipating the potential for tariffs and had already sold about 40 percent of his soybeans.

"For me, that's heavy," he said. Mohr usually waits to see what summer brings, but because the price was above his break-even point, and he knew tariffs were a possibility, he sold.

Other farmers said they, too, tried to lock in prices early.

"I wish I'd sold more," Mohr added.

The threat of tariffs could weigh heavily on Iowa's economy. A study earlier this year said administration tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese good and subsequent counter measures by China could cost the state 1,800 jobs and push farm incomes down 6.7 percent. The study was commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association and National Retail Federation.

Lower farm incomes also could affect companies like Deere & Co. In a statement on Friday, Ken Golden, a Deere spokesman, said, "Deere continues to support free and fair trade policies both for the company and for our customers. As we continue to monitor the trade policy decisions closely, we are hopeful for a timely resolution that is beneficial to the global agriculture and manufacturing economy."

That desire for a quick end was echoed widely Friday.

"Let's get back to the table, quit digging our heels in the sand and work with each other," Bill Shipley, a farmer from Adams County in southwest Iowa, urged in an interview Friday. Shipley is president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

President  Donald Trump has frequently criticized other countries' trade policies toward the U.S. He's already imposed duties on steel and aluminum, and the administration is in the midst of renegotiating NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. The president has also threatened more action against China.

Some farmers say they understand the administration's criticism of China's trade rules.

Dave Walton, a Wilton soybean and corn farmer, expects crops will be priced more aggressively going forward and that it will be necessary for China to make a deal with the U.S. to help close the trade gap.

Though the news isn't what farmers wanted to hear, Walton could see it coming.

“I think this situation shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody,” Walton said. “President Trump campaigned on this issue and he’s done it, but the speed at which he’s done it has caught a lot of us off guard.”

Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha, said that trade barriers are a legitimate concern, but added in a trade war "all parties get harmed."

Goss said he's worried, too, about how long the conflict will last. "Everybody else thinks the other side is going to blink, and no one has blinked," he said.

 

Reporters Meredith Ecklund and Erin Murphy contributed to this article.

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