Max Nelson
Former Intern, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


September 25, 2018


For five generations, the Umberger family has operated Laurel Springs Farm located just outside of Marion, VA.

In May, owner Seth Umberger traveled to China to meet with dozens of buyers who wanted to purchase his sustainable and traceable beef. Fast forward to today, and Seth now fears his plans to expand into China are being thwarted as the trade war heats up.

He’s not alone. More than $1.9 billion in Virginia exports are being threatened by the emerging trade war, leaving many business owners like Seth wondering what will happen to their sales. The stakes are just as high for the nearly 1.2 million Virginians whose jobs depend on trade. Collectively, they are the collateral damage of the deepening tariff disputes – and the potential damage to America’s industrial and agricultural heartland could get much worse.

After already imposing tariffs on steel, aluminum and $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, the Trump administration imposed additional tariffs against approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese goods imported into the United States, including many everyday consumer products like electronics and housewares. China has retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of American-made products.

Seth’s customers in China are saying the tariffs have made U.S. beef from his farm and others too expensive.

“To think that it can come to an end at the fifth generation is hard to swallow sometimes,” Seth says. “I’m hoping the tariffs are dropped so we can pursue this avenue to sell our beef in China."

Nearly 200 miles north in Weyers Cave, dairy farmer Gerald Garber says almost a quarter of the milk he produces is exported. And China is a major customer.

“The market is geared for exports,” says Garber, adding that anticipation of the tariffs have already driven down milk prices.

But, it’s not just farmers that are being impacted in Virginia.

In Williamsburg, Chris Smith, co-founder of Virginia Beer Company says the aluminum tariffs have raised the price of cans.

“Our prices have gone up significantly. We eat the cost ourselves, which isn't easy. I hope it comes down soon.”

Check out to learn more about the latest tariffs and hear voices from every state across the country about the damage being inflicted.

About the authors

Max Nelson

Max Nelson is a former Strategic Communications intern for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.