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Sartori, Harley-Davidson feeling affects of tariffs

PLYMOUTH (CBS 58) - Two of Wisconsin’s best known products are feeling the impact of the recent retaliatory tariffs.

The cheese industry and Harley-Davidson are taking a hit in the bottom line.

The export business for Sartori cheese that has grown in the past 7 years is now taking a hit in the trade war, and companies like Harley-Davidson are moving some of their manufacturing overseas to avoid the tariffs.

The recent tariffs and retaliation has Wisconsin companies and the governor calling for a level playing field.

The roar of the Harley engine begins on an assembly line in Wisconsin, but now some of those engines will be made overseas.

Harley-Davidson is moving some of their assembly to foreign countries to avoid tariffs.

That move has the attention of Governor Scott Walker. “The ultimate goal, if we can get to where there is no tariffs, or if anything, few tariffs on anything,” said Gov. Walker.

The governor says the back and forth of tariffs between countries is hurting several industries in Wisconsin. “The interest of the United States is not to put more tariffs on but rather to create a level playing field,” said Gov. Walker.

“We just want to compete on a level playing field,” said Jim Sartori, owner and CEO of Sartori cheese, a company that is feeling the tariff squeeze.

More and more of Sartori business relies on foreign buyers. “Our fastest growing business is our export business, so it does provide and obstacle to us that we need to overcome,” said Sartori.

The cheese industry is seeing tariffs jumping between 15% to 25%.

“It is a significant increase,” said Blair Wilscon, Vice President of Marketing at Sartori.

The tariffs are also hitting Sartori given what they sell.

“We’re in the aged cheese business which means, our cheese ranges anywhere from 6 to 2 years old, so if we want to sell something today we had to make those investments a while ago,” said Wilson.

Another worry is that if this trade war lasts too long, foreign companies will turn to other countries for their products and potentially leave companies like Sartori on the outside looking in.

“We really believe that free trade is key and that we have a great product and so if we’re able to put it in front of consumers across the globe then we’ll be able to compete and win,” said Wilson.

There is a ripple effect to this problem.

The president of Sartori pointed out that the company buys the milk it uses for its cheese from local farmers. If Sartori loses business, the farmers lose business as well.

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