Dairy farmers, already facing a drop in milk prices, are now bracing for pain from President Donald Trump’s proposed tax on steel.
The tariffs may be especially acute for small producers that grow their own cattle feed, according to Trevor Wuethrich, president of Grassland Dairy Products Inc., which churns out one-third of the nation’s butter. Those farmers typically own a couple of tractors, a plow and a combine — all of which are made of steel, he said. Buildings, lawn mowers and milking equipment also use metal components.
“It’s just not a good outlook for the farmers in 2018,” Wuethrich said in an interview. “Every task they do uses some kind of equipment that could potentially be affected.”
Higher prices for equipment may add another headache for milk producers that have seen demand tumble as consumers swap dairy for almond beverages and other alternatives. The combination of lower domestic consumption and a supply glut has sent prices at the supermarket sliding. The retail cost of a gallon of whole milk recently touched a 13-year low, falling to $2.92 a gallon in February.
“We just have to adjust accordingly,” Wuethrich said. “If there’s a tariff on steel and it raises the price of it being equal or more than cement, then I guess we’re putting a cement building up.”