Russian ban on ag imports to affect Idaho farmers

Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho farmers may feel a small sting from the new Russian ban on food and agricultural imports from the West.

Russia was the 14th largest export market for Idaho agriculture as of last year, according to the Idaho Department of Agriculture. The nation retaliated Thursday for sanctions imposed on it by western nations over the crisis in Ukraine. As a result, the Russians have banned ag imports from the West, including the U.S., European countries, Canada and Australia.

The U.S. exports about $1.2 billion in food and agricultural goods to Russia. That represents less than 1 percent of total U.S. agriculture exports. The largest U.S. export to Russia is poultry, mainly chicken, followed by tree nuts such as almonds, as well as soybeans.

About 90 percent of Idaho’s exports to Russia are safe from the ban, because live animals, mainly beef cattle and dairy heifers, aren’t on the list.

But peas and lentils are included in the ban. Idaho shipped about $1 million worth of those foods to Russia last year, according to Laura Johnson, bureau chief of the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s market development division.

“It certainly will have an impact on us,” Johnson told the Idaho Statesman.

The CEO of the U.S.A. Dry Pea and Lentil Council said the ban won’t topple that industry in Idaho, since Russia buys less than 1 percent of local pea and lentil exports. But it’s not good to lose that foothold.

“Russia has been an emerging market for us,” said Tim McGreevy, who leads the national group from his office on the border of Idaho and Washington. “We’ve been working hard on this market for the past five to six years, and you don’t like to see any market go away. . We hope it gets resolved.”

Apples also are included in the ban. While Idaho doesn’t ship many apples to Russia, the ban could have a ripple effect in Idaho if there’s a leftover supply in larger-exporting states such as Washington, Johnson said.

Both the European Union and U.S. already have seen hits to Russian exports in recent years.

In 2012, Russia bought almost $300 million in U.S. beef and $268 million in U.S. pork. Those numbers dropped to $1 million and $17 million a year later, after Russia imposed limits on those products because of a feed additive used in the U.S. called ractopamine.

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