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Tariffs a part of closing Hides for Habitat Program for 2018 deer season

Mark Nohre

It has been well documented how the ongoing trade war between the United States and China has roiled the soybean market, but farming is hardly the only industry affected.

Now, habitat projects in the outdoor world are feeling the pinch, too. On Oct. 10, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) announced it would suspend its Hides for Habitat Program for the 2018 deer season. Among reasons it cited was China's decision to add a 25 percent tariff to all deer hides entering that country.

China is the largest buyer of all U.S. hides for leather products. In August, the Chinese government proposed imposing 5 to 25 percent tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. imports to the country if the United States went ahead with levying tariffs on the $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

In response, the U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association released a statement calling attention to its relationship with China.

"In 2017, China imported more than $1 billion in U.S. hide, skin and leather products, representing more than 50 percent of total U.S. production," the U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association said. "The Chinese market is not just important for the U.S. hide, skin and leather industry—it is essential to its survival, particularly as formidable competitors finalize free trade agreements that could place the U.S. industry at a competitive disadvantage."

The deer hunter's association collects deer hides that hunters donate throughout the season and sells them to fur buyers who trim, salt and prepare them to be shipped overseas. The association said in a news release that the tariffs are one of a few factors that have forced them to suspend the program.

"As of August, China will no longer allow tanning of hides in the country, which did not allow enough time for tanneries to react and create new facilities in countries such as Vietnam," the deer hunter's association said in its news release. "A current oversupply of tanned hides from last year is also in the market.

"These factors have created a climate where little to no market exists for MDHA to sell their hides to the fur buyers and therefore leaves no ability for the program to make money for the mission of the program."

Since its inception in 1985, the Hides for Habitat Program has generated nearly 865,000 hides and $5.23 million to help fund statewide habitat projects. That includes projects locally through its Alexandria chapter.

"I was disappointed because it is a money maker," Alexandria's Mark Nohre said. "Money from this project is what we use for our habitat projects, our seed projects locally. That pays for all our local food plots here for our members."

Nohre is the association's Region 7 director. He said it provided almost $1,200 worth of seed in corn and soybeans last year to be planted as food plots for area wildlife.

"Which doesn't sound like a lot of money," Nohre said, "but it takes a lot of hides to make $1,200 at $4, $5 apiece."

When the program was in place, drop boxes for hides had been placed all around the Douglas County area. At the program's peak when hunters were allotted up to five deer tags locally in some zones, Nohre said he remembers the group collecting almost 1,100 hides during deer season.

"I think we collected somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 hides last year, which was good," Nohre said. "We won't see any of that this year."

The MDHA noted that it is confident this could be a one-year hiatus. Their hope is that a year without the hides will create a demand in the market to the point that they will be able to restart the program.

"Fur buyers have stated that they expect everything to return to normal for the 2019 season at which time MDHA will again be back up and running the Hides for Habitat program," the release said. "MDHA appreciates hunter patience during this time and asks that you please remember to donate your hide in 2019."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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