Farm country feels the squeeze of Trump push on China tariffs

Even as President Donald Trump floated the idea this week of another round of bailout payments to farmers to help them deal with the loss of markets due to retaliation against new U.S. tariffs, the outlook from back in farm country was not one of optimism, with the current U.S.-China trade uncertainty again forecast to buffet a variety of agricultural producers.

"Times are tough in farm country," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), whose state exports a significant amount of soybeans to China. "American farmers are paying the price for trade uncertainty with China."

"Soy growers need a positive resolution of this ongoing tariff dispute, not further escalation of tensions," said the American Soybean Association.

"We see no end in sight," said Lynn Rohrscheib, the President of the Illinois Soybean Growers, who fears even more economic hardship.

"When China’s reciprocal tariffs hit our soybeans last summer, we lost nearly one-third of our market overnight," Rohrschieb added.

"In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017," Virginia's two Democratic U.S. Senators said on Tuesday.

But at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump expressed confidence that the U.S. would prevail in what he labeled a trade 'squabble' with the Chinese.

"Our economy is fantastic; theirs is not so good," the President told reporters, as he said he is not backing off the threat to possibly levy tariffs on an additional $325 billion in imports from the Chinese.

“I think it's going to turn out extremely well, we're in a very strong position,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

"We're going to be collecting over $100 billion in tariffs," the President said of the additional duties on imports from China.

But those tariffs would be paid for by U.S. businesses and consumers - another sore point for critics of the President's trade strategy.

But in farm country, the collateral damage is being felt.

+ In Michigan, agricultural leaders said "these tariffs will have a negative impact on U.S. farmers across the nation."

+ In Iowa and Nebraska, the outlook is getting "grimmer by the day." 

+ In Georgia, farmers who export cotton, soybeans, pecans, and peanuts will face higher tariffs as they try to sell products in China.

+ In Indiana, farm exports of soybeans and oilseeds have dropped dramatically in the last year.

"The tariffs have done enough damage already to agriculture," said a top official of the Indiana Farm Bureau.

About the Author