(April 1) The fallout from the Bush administration’s imposition of 8% to 30% tariffs on steel imports apparently is worsening.

And U.S. agriculture, including the fresh produce industry, is about to pay the price.

First, Russia, a steel-producing giant, banned U.S. poultry imports.

Now, the European Union is poised to slap tariffs on about $2.2 billion in U.S. exports to the continent. Florida citrus is high on the list of targeted products. Among other commodities that could face stiff trade barriers are apples and pistachios.

It seems President Bush has met his match in Pascal Lamy, the Frenchman who serves as the EU’s trade commissioner. Bush, you’ll recall, said the steel tariffs were prompted by dumping. But U.S. trading partners widely view them as a political attempt to save steel industry jobs in states that are important to the president’s Republican Party in November’s midterm elections.

Lamy, by targeting Florida citrus, among other products, admits he is playing the same game. And a costly game it could be.

Many observers even fear U.S. actions, which many allies view as a violation of international law, could threaten a new round of trade talks and topple the World Trade Organization.

Clearly, that’s not what Bush had in mind when imposing steel tariffs. But that may become the reality he will have to deal with.

In the meantime, unfortunately, it appears the produce industry will suffer.