Farmers Patience Wears Thin in Escalating Trade War

On May 10, the U.S. Trade Representative moved forward with increasing the tariff rate from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.  Farmers across the country are extremely concerned by the actions taken by President Trump and his Administration.  The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the American Soybean Association (ASA), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) were expecting a deal by March 1 before farmers went back into the fields but instead saw an escalation of the trade war.  The three commodities represent around 171 million acres of farmland in the United States.

“U.S. wheat growers are facing tough times right now and these additional tariffs will continue to put a strain on our export markets and threaten many decades worth of market development,” NAWG President and Texas wheat farmer Ben Scholz said.

ASA President Davie Stephens, a soy grower from Clinton, Kentucky, added that it took 40 years to develop the China soy market, or “for most of us in farming, two thirds of our lives.”

“If we don’t get this trade deal sorted out and the tariffs rescinded soon, those of us who worked to build this market likely won’t see it recover in our lifetime,” Stephens said. “We have heard and believed the President when he says he supports farmers, but we’d like the President to hear us and believe what we are saying about the real-life consequences to our farms and families as this trade war drags on.”

Corn farmers who are unable to begin spring planting due to wet weather are watching as commodity prices continue to decline, NCGA President Lynn Chrisp said.

“Holding China accountable for objectionable behavior is an admirable goal, but the ripple effects are causing harm to farmers and rural communities.  Farmers have been patient and willing to let negotiations play out, but with each passing day, patience is wearing thin. Agriculture needs certainty, not more tariffs,” Chrisp said.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson also noted that China’s “manipulative trade practices are clearly a problem that need to be fixed.”  But, the Administration’s decisions in addressing the issue have created new problems for America’s farmers, he said.

Growers have been reeling for almost a year now after the President first imposed a 25 percent duty on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods in July 2018, and later, a 10 percent duty on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese products, which resulted in the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. These are having a compounding impact not only on agriculture but all industries across the United States.

“We are more than a year into this trade war with China, and this most recent escalation suggests that there is no end in sight.  At this point, we can’t expect export markets to go back to the way they were – the damage has already been done,” Johnson said.

NFU is asking Congress to provide farmers with adequate support to maintain their livelihoods as export markets continue to shrink and farm income drops.

“In the long term, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we establish the economic sustainability of agricultural production in the U.S.  But until that happens, struggling family farmers and ranchers are in desperate need of a lifeboat to keep them afloat, whether that’s another round of Marketing Facilitation Program payments or some other form of economic disaster assistance,” Johnson concluded.


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