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From first-quarter growth rate to creation of jobs to the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, recent news about the domestic economy is largely, undeniably positive for the nation as a whole.

Here in farm country, though, storm clouds build as the U.S.-China trade war, begun a little more than a year ago, continues.

Last weekend, President Trump threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. On Wednesday, the Chinese vowed retaliation.

Against this ominous backdrop, U.S. and Chinese trade negotiation teams engaged in another round of trade talks in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night.

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To say the stakes for these talks are high in Iowa, as well as in Nebraska and South Dakota, is a gross understatement.

Agriculture continues to bear a heavy burden in the U.S.-China trade dispute Americans have watched escalate since the first tariffs were imposed.

According to the USDA, sales of U.S. farm commodities to China (Iowa is the second-largest exporter of ag products, behind only California, and leads the nation in soybean, corn and pork exports; China is the world's second-largest importer of U.S. ag products) fell from more than $20 billion in fiscal 2017 to $16.3 billion in fiscal 2018 and are forecast to decline even more, to $9 billion, in this fiscal year.

A recent Iowa State University report said Iowa farmers could lose up to $2.2 billion from U.S. trade wars with China and other nations, producing a ripple effect on state tax receipts, jobs and other industries.

Perhaps the negotiations under way in Washington will bear fruit. If, however, they collapse and tough-talk rhetoric resumes, then state and federal elected leaders of agriculture states like Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota must use whatever measure of clout they possess in ratcheting up pressure on the Trump administration for an end to this standoff.

They should be in the ear of President Trump and members of his administration every day, putting political considerations aside and acting in the best interests of the agriculture economy so crucial to constituents they represent.

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—Sioux City (Iowa) Journal

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