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A regional public media collaboration serving the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Economist: Partial Trade Deal With China Won't Rake In Big Money Promised For Agriculture

Photo of pigs on a farm
The coronavirus is affecting China's ability to purchase products from the U.S., according to Department of Agriculture Chief Economist Robert Johansson. That could hurt Mountain West pork producers, since Chinese consumers eat a lot of American pork.

It looks like President Trump’s partial trade deal with China won’t bring in the promised $40 billion or so worth of agricultural trade for the U.S. this year. 

Robert Johansson, chief economist for Department of Agriculture, expects the actual number will be closer to $14 billion — an increase of about $4 billion from a year ago. 

In a speech at the agency’s annual outlook forum, he said the coronavirus known as COVID-19 is affecting China’s ability to purchase products from the U.S.

“Globally we’ve observed significant disruptions in shipping and supply chains,” Johansson said. “We would expect less spending by Chinese consumers, particularly in the first quarter.”

Johannson said this will affect China’s ability to purchase expensive products such as meat. This could hurt pork producers in the Mountain West because Chinese consumers eat a lot of American pork. Johansson predicted the country will rebound in the coming months. 

Uncertainty in global markets and a disparity in how China and America count their fiscal years has also contributed to the lower trade prediction. When President Trump signed a partial trade deal with China in January, the Chinese government agreed to purchase between $40 and $50 billion worth of American agricultural goods. 

On Twitter over the weekend, Trump appeared to signal that more financial assistance was on the way for U.S. farmers and ranchers in light of the new trade prediction. 

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, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Follow Nate Hegyi on Twitter @natehegyi.

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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