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Shaheen tours Londonderry meadery to hear about impact of tariffs on business

LONDONDERRY — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited Moonlight Meadery after company officials said they missed out on an opportunity to make an additional $750,000 per year because of Chinese retaliatory tariffs.

“Sadly, we’re hearing from small businesses all over New Hampshire who are hurt by the tariffs,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen’s staff supplied a study by Trade Partnership Worldwide LLC, an international trade and economic consulting firm, which projects a net loss of 1,889 jobs in the Granite State caused just by the steel and aluminum tariffs alone.

According to the study, the aluminum and steel tariffs would create 137 jobs in the steel and aluminum sector but eliminate 2,026 jobs in other sectors. Nationwide, the net job loss is projected to exceed 400,000.

The Trump administration has implemented or proposed tariffs on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese products, and China has already begun to retaliate with tariffs of its own.

It was its tariff on wine imports from the United States, which the Chinese government increased from 37 percent to 54 percent, that was the death knell to Moonlight Meadery’s plan.

The company’s owner, Michael Fairbrother, was working with Robert Skaff to send 9,000 gallons of orange blossom mead to upper middle class consumers in China each year under a different label.

The tariffs “vaporized” the deal, Fairbrother said. And he said he was forced to lay off his production manager and vice president of marketing, who is also his wife.

“It was heartbreaking,” Fairbrother told Shaheen.

He showed Shaheen two 3,100-gallon oak tanks (the largest oak tanks in the state, he said) that he uses for making New England-style hard cider.

“We still bottle and can everything by hand,” he said.

The company has also had to carry an additional cost burden with the price of aluminum cans going up because of the aluminum tariffs imposed by President Trump, he said. He also told Shaheen that, due to a quirk in alcohol regulations, a can of wine has to be sized at 375 milliliters, slightly taller than the typical 12-ounce can. As a result, he has to buy the larger cans for his mead, which are more expensive because the cans are imported from Australia and shipped to New Hampshire from Colorado.

Fairbrother said the company he uses to can his products, IronHeart Canning, has also been affected by the tariffs.

“Changes to the game while we’re in the game is really unfair,” Fairbrother said.

He said there has to be an easier way to accomplish the economic goals of the administration without taking someone’s opportunities away from them.

“Hopefully, some of this craziness can be reversed,” Shaheen said.

She offered to forward a question from Fairbrother to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who will be before an appropriations subcommittee on July 26. Shaheen will preside over the hearing as ranking member. Fairbrother said he would like to know “what the real plan is.”

Recently, Shaheen sponsored a bill that would require congressional approval for new tariffs, and sent a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider his plan to impose tariffs.

Shaheen said there is strong bipartisan support against the trade war. She hopes Congress can put enough pressure on the President to get him to change his mind.