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Trade War Slows Plans To Sell More US Beef In China

Photo of beef cooler. / pkanchana
High tariffs mean high prices for U.S. beef in China and that's scaring away Chinese buyers.

Where’s the beef? Not in China.

President Trump’s escalating trade beef with China has frozen plans to sell more Montana steaks, hamburgers and jerky to Chinese consumers.

“The trade disputes have really slowed down efforts to try to get Montana beef to Chinese markets,” Jay Bodner, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said.

High tariffs mean high prices for American beef, according to Bodner, and that’s scaring away Chinese buyers. While the market is small, Montana was one of the only states to aggressively pursue it after the country lifted its 13-year ban on U.S. beef in 2016.

The ban was originally spurred in 2003 after a handful of American cattle contracted so-called mad cow disease.

After the ban was lifted, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., traveled to China and presented President Xi Jinping with a cut of Montana-raised beef.

Then, in 2017, Montana ranchers struck a $300 million deal with an online retailer to sell their beef in China, and to build a processing plant in the state.

But the ongoing trade dispute has put a damper on that deal, according to Bodner.

“Those discussions have slowed down dramatically,” he said. “We know that they’re not off the table but they probably won’t resume until we start to see some of these trade negotiations get resolved.”

During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Daines applauded Trump’s stance on China but warned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that he wanted the trade war to resolve .

“We need results,” he said. “We need them soon.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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