Senator Ernst hears tough tariff talk from ag businesses and farmers

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WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa (KCRG) -- Iowans gave Senator Joni Ernst an earful of concerns, Wednesday, as the ag sector continues to struggle with tariffs.

At a roundtable in Williamsburg, the Republican listened as business owners and ag leaders explained personal struggles with the tariffs.

Kinze Manufacturing-- a maker of farm machinery-- said steel tariffs cost them a "seven-figure" sum in the last year.

Richard Dix, the company's senior supply chain director, said that was a lot of money to the smaller-sized manufacturer.

"Those tariffs essentially force us to make difficult decisions as we go along," Dix said. "Where do we spend our money? How do we spend our money?"

The founder of Cedar Ridge Distillery and maker of whiskey, Jeff Quint, said his exporting to Europe was on hold. High retaliatory import tariffs on whiskey meant that particular part of his business was struggling to keep its head above water.

Quint was hoping for a quick resolution to the trade dispute.

"You wonder why it takes so long," Quint said. "Will it work itself out? I sure think so. I just hope it's soon enough."

Ernst said she would bring the group's call for an end to the tariffs back to the White House.

"That's where we need to focus the message," Ernst said. "Making sure that the president, that the ambassador, Ambassador [Robert] Lighthizer, understand the significance of the tariffs and what it's doing to our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and, of course, that end consumer."

The senator has been an outspoken critic of the tariffs from the onset. However, she said she was cautiously optimistic they would be coming to an end soon.

Ernst said negotiations with China were making progress. She also expected Congress to ratify a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, perhaps before the end of the session.

President Trump placed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports in a fight over Beijing's aggressive drive to challenge US technological dominance. China retaliated, targeting $110 billion worth of US products, such as pork and soybeans.

In an effort to strengthen American made steel and aluminum, Trump also imposed tariffs on imports of those products. That, in turn, led to Canada and Mexico imposing a series of tariffs on some US goods.