Our federal government has waged a trade war on China for the last two years. While our president’s intent may have been to boost American manufacturing and production, the Wisconsin ginseng industry paints a grim portrait of the actual outcome.
In his award-winning “Murphy’s Law” blog, Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee dissects the rise and fall of Wisconsin’s ginseng industry, the latter of which could be a direct byproduct of the federal government’s trade war with China.
According to Murphey, ginseng has been a pretty remarkable success story in Wisconsin, with 95% of all US ginseng exports coming from the state’s north central Marathon County. From northern Wisconsin, a vast majority of that production was then shipped to China. That is, until the Chinese trade war began, and their government retaliated against the President, “targeting states they knew he needed for reelection, states like Wisconsin. The Chinese added a tariff that increased the price for ginseng by 41 percent.”
In speaking with Wisconsin Public Radio, Will Hsu, president of Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises in Marathon County, noted that Chinese tariffs “sent ginseng prices plunging from nearly $50 per pound of cultivated ginseng to closer to $20 per pound. That’s because U.S. growers have to essentially deduct the added cost of Chinese tariffs from their own prices.”
Couple the two-year trade war with unseasonably unreliable weather, and you have a recipe that has cost many in the Wisconsin ginseng industries their jobs. The irony, of course, lies in the fact that agricultural communities such as this are a core target for Trump’s re-election bid, and were a core component to his 2016 victory. And it’s not just ginseng, the devastating effects that the trade war has had on Wisconsin are well documented.
It is yet to be seen where the ginseng producers of Marathon County will align themselves in 2020, but most signs indicate that their income won’t recover until 2021.
You can read Bruce Murphy’s full piece and delve deeper into the woes of Wisconsin agriculture here.