Retaliatory tariffs triggered by U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration have led to between $700 million and $1 billion in lost farm income in Nebraska this year, according to a report released Monday by the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Additional costs include between $164 million and $242 million in lost labor income, along with the loss of 4,100 to 6,000 jobs, the economic analysis stated.

"This report provides a clear picture of how much we've lost due to those tariffs and the need to improve our trade relations," Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said.

President Donald Trump imposed steep U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports earlier this year.

In a news release summarizing the retaliatory impact on Nebraska agriculture, the Farm Bureau steered clear of any criticism of the president, avoiding even mentioning his name.

"International trade is critical to agriculture," Nelson said.

"In most years, the value of agriculture exports will equal roughly 30 percent of the total agricultural commodity receipts or sales for the state of Nebraska."

The economic analysis prepared for the Farm Bureau specifically examined the impact on corn, soybeans and hogs, the products most affected by the retaliatory tariffs.

"The total loss in Nebraska farm revenues due to the retaliatory tariffs ranges from $695 million to $1.026 billion so far in 2018," Jay Rempe, Nebraska Farm Bureau senior economist and co-author of the new report, stated.

"That's roughly 11 to 16 percent of the export values of Nebraska agricultural goods in 2017."

The total loss to the broader Nebraska economy was estimated as high as $1.2 billion. That, Rempe said, is "a significant hit to our state's economy."

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Looking forward, the report called for congressional approval of the new trade agreement forged by the United States, Mexico and Canada, along with elimination of the recent U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs.

In addition, the report urged swift action to secure free-trade agreements with Japan and with the European Union, along with U.S. inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement or bilateral trade agreements with TPP nations, as well as a multinational approach toward China.

Earlier, in an upbeat assessment of the potential for substantial property tax relief, Nelson said "we are turning the corner" in gaining legislative support for meaningful action. 

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"This issue is no longer headed in the wrong direction," Nelson told more than 350 farmers and ranchers from across the state during an address to the Farm Bureau state convention in Kearney.

"It's headed in the right direction," he said.

"If you walk into the Capitol today, you would be hard-pressed to find many senators who would say property taxes aren't a major issue for their constituents."

But, Nelson noted, "partnerships with other interests will be needed" to secure the votes required to advance a meaningful property tax relief measure during the upcoming legislative session that convenes next month.

"Making significant change to state tax policy is like turning an aircraft carrier," Nelson said. "It takes time. It's large. It's cumbersome. It doesn't turn on a dime."

Nelson's positive assessment of progress in meeting the goal of substantial property tax relief follows in the wake of a standoff earlier this year that ended with Speaker Jim Scheer's unsuccessful effort to seek a compromise tax agreement in the final days of the 2018 legislative session.

Private negotiations that Scheer arranged following an impasse on the floor of the Legislature broke down with no consensus agreement within reach.

"The Nebraska Farm Bureau remains laser-focused on resolving this issue," Nelson said. The farm organization counts 61,000 members.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

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

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