‘UpFront’: Cheesemaker Sartori feeling impact of retaliatory tariffs

The president of a Plymouth cheese company says the business is feeling the impact of retaliatory tariffs directed at Wisconsin cheese, and if the trade dispute goes on long enough, executives may be forced to “totally re-plan the business.”

Sartori Company President Jeff Schwager said Mexico imposed a 15 percent tariff on Wisconsin cheese, and it will soon rise to as much as 25 percent. The tariff is in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, which have hit U.S. allies.

Schwager said Sartori has negotiated with its customers in Mexico to split the cost of the tariff.

“What was a profitable business for us is maybe now break even,” Schwager said on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

“We’re willing to do that for 90 days,” he said. “We’re hoping this isn’t a long-term situation.”

Schwager said the change in the trade rules and the uncertainty that’s created makes business hard for a company like Sartori, which ages cheese.

“The product we’re supposed to be shipping now was made a year ago. We didn’t know what the trade rules were, or were going to be. Today the cheese we’re making is for a year from now. What are the rules going to be?” he asked.

He also said if the trade dispute goes on long enough, it will eventually affect Sartori’s employees and the dairy farms that supply the company.

“It’s 500 families, within the processing. When we look at the dairy farms out there, that we buy 100 percent of their milk, there’s another, you know, 700 families there. It’s 1,200 families that are counting on us to make the right decisions and provide for their livelihoods,” he said.

Schwager said he agreed with the president that balance of trade is an issue, but the problem is China, not U.S. allies. He said he would like to see the administration work with Canada, Mexico and Europe to collectively deal with the China, “instead of creating havoc with our allies.”

Also on the program, Randy Bryce, an ironworker running in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District, said progressive candidates nationwide are “building a movement.”

“I’d like to say that we’re in construction, not demolition,” he said.

“A lot of candidates are stepping up, everyday working people that are running,” he said.

He said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders organizer who shocked the political world by upsetting House Democrat Joe Crowley in a primary in New York City last week, is part of that movement.

“We’re trying to get that enthusiasm, get people to the polls, give them something to be excited about, because we’re one of them. We understand the struggles of everyday people,” he said.

Bryce said he agreed with Ocasio-Cortez’s positions of Medicare for all, free college tuition for public universities, and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — known as ICE — because “it’s a group that really terrifying the immigrant community, especially among the children.”

Gousha also asked Bryce about his opposition to the state’s deal with Foxconn, which is building a huge electronics plant in Mount Pleasant, and is expected to create thousands of jobs in the 1st CD.

“The problem that I have with Foxconn is the $4.5 billion in Wisconsin taxes that’s being used for it,” Bryce said. “I’d rather see that money being spent on fixing our infrastructure.”

See more from the show:
http://www.wisn.com/upfront

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