New Study Will Track How Trade Wars Affect the Midwest

December 14, 2018

A team of researchers who first proposed studying the effect a global trade war could have on the Midwest never imagined there would be an actual trade war underway as they conducted their research.

But as 2018 played out—and as the United States and China traded tariff after tariff this summer—the real-world applications of their research became more and more clear.

“Our farmers in the Midwest provide food throughout the world, so if we shut down that ability for them to send their goods all over the place—if we invoke tariffs and counter-tariffs—then that really affects the demand for what they produce,” said Jeff Bielicki, an assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering at The Ohio State University.

“And we wondered: How would that affect farming and land use issues and water and energy systems in the Midwest?”

Bielicki, who has a joint appointment in Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs, presented on the project on Dec. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.

The goal of their work, which is funded through a 3-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is to build models that could show how various trade scenarios—from trade wars to trade alliances to other future scenarios—could affect the food, energy and water supply coming from the Great Lakes region. The five-state area includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The money is provided through Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems, a research partnership between the NSF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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