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Why Oklahoma’s Cattlemen Are Worried About Pork Tariffs

USDA/Lance Cheung
Ground beef meat products at a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia, on March 3, 2011.

The Chinese government plans to implement retaliatory tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods next month. Although beef is on the list, Oklahoma cattlemen are also keeping an eye on pork tariffs.



China is an up and coming market for Oklahoma’s cattle ranchers. American producers just regained access to China as an export market when a 14-year ban on U.S. beef exports to the country was lifted last year.

But according to Michael Kelsey, the president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, most of the state’s beef is consumed domestically, competing with other proteins like pork, which also faces tariffs.

“We're as equally concerned about the potential for a pork tariff in China as we are a beef tariff there,” Kelsey said.

He says if China buys less pork, domestic pork supplies will likely increase.

“An increased supply of pork is gonna cause the price of pork at the retail outlet to go down,” Kelsey explained. “That's going to be a very competitive disadvantage for us in the beef industry.”

The Chinese tariffs are set to take effect July 6, but Kelsey says the uncertainty around trade is already making it difficult for cattlemen to compete with pork and poultry operations.

“For cattlemen, it takes about three years to get a product to market as compared to our friends in the protein market,” Kelsey said. “Pork is less than a year. Poultry is a couple of months.”


Without the ability to easily ramp up or slow down production, Kelsey says trade tussles are making cattle operations more difficult than usual.


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Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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