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Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson on Wednesday joined with other Midwest Farm Bureau leaders in urging the Trump administration to end the escalation of trade disputes with China that threaten U.S. agricultural export opportunities.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Farm Bureau presidents from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin asked the secretary to work with President Donald Trump to resolve the trade dispute.

"Farmers and ranchers know growing our customer base outside our borders is critical to our economic survival," Nelson wrote.

"The development of international trade rules and passage of free-trade agreements, while never perfect, have helped the United States and the Midwest in particular," he stated.

Agricultural trade between China and Midwestern states amounted to almost $4.5 billion in 2017, Nelson said.

"Farmers and ranchers have invested heavily in checkoff programs, trade missions and other activities to grow international markets," he said.

The president's call for the secretary of agriculture to develop a plan to provide monetary compensation to farmers and ranchers who may be hurt by retaliatory measures China may take in response to proposed new U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods would "negate the work of our organizations to reduce the need for taxpayer assistance for agriculture," Nelson said.

"We cannot afford to risk the gains we've made in market access by making farm and ranch families casualties of ongoing trade disputes with China," he said. 

Among products China has listed for potential retaliatory tariffs are U.S. soybeans, cotton, beef, corn, wheat and sorghum. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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