WASHINGTON — American farmers have not only endured retaliatory tariffs from China and other nations, they’ve also watched as most of their top foreign competitors used free-trade agreements to make inroads into Japan, a historically protectionist market with nearly 127 million consumers.
Now they’re wondering whether the coming U.S.-Japan trade deal that President Donald Trump is showcasing will be as strong for farmers as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was negotiated under President Barack Obama and ditched by Trump as soon as he took office.
When Trump bailed on TPP, competitors such as Canada, Mexico and Australia forged ahead with a revamped version of the trade deal. Not wanting to be left out, the European Union reached its own free-trade agreement with Japan. Both agreements went into effect at the beginning of this year.
The result: Top foreign competitors to American farmers get a pricing advantage after taking into account the 38.5% import tax that is applied to American beef, the 20% tariff applied to American ground pork and the 40% duty applied to some cheeses.
The changes have contributed to a new trade landscape that saw U.S. farm exports to Japan drop 2% to $6.5 billion in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the Agriculture Department.
“We’ve taken a temporary step backward because our competitors have had better access than us,” said Nick Giordano, a vice president at the National Pork Producers Council.
Giordano is hopeful that dynamic will change soon. The president, in need of some wins on the trade front, has said the U.S. and Japan have agreed in principle on a new trade pact that the two parties hope to make official this month.
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Trump announced the agreement a couple of days after he raised retaliatory tariffs on China and ordered American companies to consider alternatives to doing business there, moves that contributed to significant drops in the financial markets.
Trade talks involving the Trump administration tend to be subject to fits and starts. Farm groups are hoping for no setbacks.
“Japan is very important to us,” Giordano said, calling it pork producers’ largest-value market year in and year out.
He added: “We’re losing sales to our EU and TPP competitors. So we’re just really real eager to get back to a level playing field there and this deal is going to do it.”
For all of Trump’s criticism of Obama’s TPP, it’s unclear whether Trump will be able to secure better terms than the ones farmers would have gained under Obama. The American Farm Bureau Federation had projected that TPP would have increased net farm income by $4.4 billion annually.
Japanese officials are optimistic the two sides can reach a deal in time for the U.N. General Assembly later this month in New York.
They are hoping for an agreement that gives Japan relief from the import taxes Trump slapped last year on foreign steel and aluminum and from the tariffs he’s threatened to impose on auto imports.
In return, American farmers would get the kind of increased access to the Japanese market they would have received under TPP.
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The car rental business
Appropriately located in a former horse stable, the Ford Livery Company at 1314 Howard Street was America's first car rental company, dreamed up in 1916 by Joe Saunders. He and his brothers expanded their company, later renamed Saunders Drive It Yourself System, to 56 cities by 1926. They sold to Avis in 1955. Read more
These chocolates, a Nebraska staple, are sold throughout the world. They’ve been produced in Greenwood for three generations.
In St. Paul, Nebraska, during the late 1940s, a woman named Dorothy Lynch developed a sweet and tangy dressing. Community members loved it so much that they brought their own bottles and jugs to have them filled with the popular concoction. In 1964, Lynch sold the recipe to Tasty-Toppings so it could be widely manufactured. Every bottle of Dorothy Lynch now comes from a production facility in Duncan.
Vise-Grip locking pliers
These days, the pliers are made in China, but the handy tool was made at a plant in Dewitt, Nebraska, until 2008. William Petersen, a blacksmith in DeWitt, came up with the idea for locking pliers in the early 1920s. He patented his first wrench in 1921, but the first Vise-Grip wrench with a locking handle was not patented until 1924. Petersen originally sold the pliers from the trunk of his car, but later formed a company and began manufacturing Vise-Grips in DeWitt in 1938. The company was acquired by Irwin Tools in 1993.
The chair lift
Union Pacific engineer (not the train kind) James Curran came up with the design for the ski chairlift in 1936. He was inspired by hook-equipped banana conveyor systems that loaded cargo ships in the tropics. The first chairlifts were installed at a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936 and 1937.
In 1958, Cliff Hillegass was working at Nebraska Book Co. when he met a Canadian man who published study guides. Hillegass acquired the American rights to the product and produced them under the name CliffsNotes. He continued to develop more, working from Lincoln. The company would go on to produce reference guides for subjects other than literature, saving the academic lives of millions of students time and again.
When blacksmith-turned-knifemaker Frank J. Richtig made a name for himself among knife enthusiasts by dramatically demonstrating his knives. Using a hammer, he would pound the blade completely through a ¾-inch-thick steel strap. Then he would slice a piece of paper with the knife that had cut through steel. Richtig’s feat was possible because the steel had been hardened through a process he both discovered and took to his grave in 1977. Richtig’s knives — many of which are in private collections — have been valued at more than $4,000 each.
Inspiration for the chocolate-coated ice cream bar came from a candy store in Onawa, Iowa, in 1920. But it wasn’t until owner and creator Christian Kent Nelson took his invention to a Nebraska chocolatier named Russell Stover that the Eskimo Pie went into mass production. Many variations of the delicious treat are available in grocery and convenience stores worldwide.
The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier was developed at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln between 1998 and 2002. Dean Sicking led a team of engineers to create the special safety wall for racetracks, which reduces the danger to drivers in a crash. The system was installed on many IndyCar and NASCAR circuit tracks.
Frozen TV dinners
In the 1950s, Swanson met the needs of busy American families with the creation of a meal that was easy and fast to prepare in single portions. Several other frozen dinners had been developed by other companies, but Omaha-based Swanson developed the idea on a nationwide scale. Though it’s widely assumed that the term “TV dinner” came from families eating the frozen meals in front of the television at dinner time, food historians say the name came from the tray’s original shape, which resembled a 1950s TV.