March 3, 2005 – Posted at 4:39 p.m. CST
HICKMAN -- In the late 1990's, the United States steel industry faced a crisis due to the flood of foreign steel on the market. More than 50,000 steel workers lost their jobs and 45 American steel producers went bankrupt. In 2000, a five-year tariff was implemented on hot-rolled steel from Brazil, Japan and Russia in order to level the playing field.
Now the International Trade Commission may hold the keys to the employment door for more than 1400 Arkansas steel workers.
"I think it's important for us to be able to compete, to have those orders, to prevent that anti-dumping," said Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor (D).
Hearings at the International Trade Commission may determine how much steel will be made in America. The Nucor Hickman steel plant supplies much of the western United States with rolled steel.
"Our suppliers need a local source," said Mark DiGirolamo, Nucor Controller, "We do all kinds of things for our customers, for frequent delivery, excellent customer service."
And it's that customer service Nucor officials say makes American steel companies good for the home front. But lifting the tariff on hot-rolled steel imports could change that.
"I've seen dramatic ups and downs here. Within a month or two you can be flooded with imports and then they go away for six months and then they'll come back and just totally take over the us market," said DiGirolamo, "When you remove tariffs, you open that door."
Senator Pryor said, "When we look at how steel is used in our military capabilities. We need a very stable, healthy source of American steel that we can produce right here in this country."
Senator Pryor said the tariffs placed on the foreign exports have leveled the playing field for American steel workers.
"Basically, without these tariffs they can ship their product in here even less than their cost and just wipe out our local industry," said DiGirolamo
An industry Region 8 depends on.
"We ought to be competitive. If we have fair trade practices we will be. We won't disappear," said DiGirolamo, "We'll be here for a long time to come and we won't be beat by overseas competition."