The continuing fall-out from the trade wars started by Donald Trump made the front page of the top business newspaper in the nation. And it was reported from Wisconsin.
MENOMONIE, Wis.—After the U.S. placed tariffs on European steel and aluminum in June, Europe hit back with a tax that, among other things, made American kidney beans 25% more expensive in Europe.
Now, Cindy Brown is running out of room to store the beans. One-ton bags of them cover the floors in her cavernous warehouses. Smaller sacks are piled on wood-pallet shelves. Kidney beans fill tall steel bins that dot the grounds.
Chippewa Valley Bean Co. had been on track to ship to Europe 60% of its beans traded internationally this year, worth $25 million. Now, “we’re just sitting on our hands,” said Ms. Brown, president of the family company.
Ms. Brown’s ancestors arrived in northwest Wisconsin by covered wagon 160 years ago, building a house and planting crops on 80 acres north of the Chippewa River. In 1969 her father, Russell Doane, planted his first crop of dark red kidney beans. Though he also raised beef and dairy cattle and grew corn, the kidney beans proved well-suited to the area’s sandy soils. He found ready buyers, and four years later launched Chippewa Valley Bean Co. to clean and market his beans and others grown by neighbors.
Chippewa Valley handles one in four dark red kidney beans traded internationally, according to Randy Fairman, an agricultural consultant who specializes in dry beans.
“If the tariffs hold, the near-term impact will be devastating to small businesses both in the U.S. and the EU,” Mr. Fairman said. “There is no place in the supply chain where a 25% tariff could be absorbed.”