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Some farmers fear Trump’s China trade deal will leave them worse off than before

A farmer carries a bag of corn seed in Malden, Ill., on May 16, 2017.

Some U.S. farm groups fear that President Donald Trump’s terms for easing his trade war with China risk leaving large swaths of American agriculture worse off than before the conflict began.

Many producers are alarmed by signs that the administration would accept Chinese purchase target pledges for commodities like soybeans and pork without a promise to lift retaliatory tariffs, said industry representatives, some of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity to avoid consequences for publicly criticizing the administration.

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This is of great concern to producers out here facing another year of tariffs,We’re disappointed. Clearly the priority lies elsewhere

said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents cherry, pear and apple growers in the Pacific Northwest.

Farmers are unnerved by Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs and his tendency to pick industry winners and losers, even as he promises in general terms to put “America first” in negotiations with the U.S.’s largest trading partner.

While China and the U.S. aim to finalize a trade truce within the next month, Trump is still vowing to maintain some tariffs as leverage for enforcement, which China would counter by continuing retaliatory duties on farmers despite possible purchase agreements for some commodities.

As recently as March 20, Trump said he envisions U.S. tariffs lasting “a substantial period of time” after a trade agreement takes effect. Hinting at what he considers a victory in this trade war, Trump also often promises “massive” new orders for farm exports.

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