Marathon Co. ginseng farmers differ on views of US-China trade warSubmitted: 07/09/2019
Dan Hagen
Dan Hagen

Marathon Co. ginseng farmers differ on views of US-China trade war
MARATHON CO. - Joe Heil usually grow 320 acres of ginseng, but because of the trade war with China, he's only growing 200 acres.

"If the prices go any lower we're going to be losing money," said Heil.

Wednesday, he finished planting 120 acres of hemp.

"Just felt there was an opportunity with hemp," said Heil. "Did a lot of reading about it, did a lot of traveling this winter learning about it."

Heil has never grown hemp before, but felt it was necessary. He also thinks President Trump's tough on restricting trade with China stance is necessary.

"When the whole trade agreement was set up with China, I'm not really sure where the consideration was for having no tax [on China's ginseng] coming here but [our ginseng] having a high tax going into China," said Heil. "If we pay 10 percent getting into China, then Chinese ginseng coming into the U.S. should be 10 percent. It's pretty simple."

Will Hsu of Hsu's Ginseng said the trade war has only hurt the ginseng industry and wants it to end.
"Chinese people have always been willing to pay a premium for American ginseng," said Hsu. "The problem is now they're having to pay a premium that's 30, 40, 50 percent more than what it was in the past."

That problem has led to Hsu losing more than 10 members of his staff this year.

Two ginseng farmers in Marathon County, including Heil, have started growing hemp. But Hsu said he will stick to what his family has grown for forty years.

"This is what we want to do, we're good at growing ginseng," said Hsu. "We want to sell this product, we know that we can sell this product. It's just that tariffs make it harder for us to sell this product for consumers who want it."

Heil is breaking even on selling ginseng this season. He has faith that the President's tough stance with China will lead to a level playing field down the road now. But right now, he said he could use some help from the administration.

"The overall economy everywhere else is doing really well," said Heil. "The agricultural sector is really what's taking a hit right now so maybe they can give us some help to offset the pressure that we're getting."

President Trump's team plans to resume trade talks this week. 

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