Iowa Farmers Losing Patience with Trade War

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LACONA, Iowa — In the latest with the trade wars, China announced Thursday it would not retaliate against President Donald Trump’s most recent tariffs imposed. Iowa farmers said this is relatively good news, but they just want to see a trade deal.

On Sept. 1, U.S. tariffs on about half of $300 billion in Chinese imports will be taxed at 15%, with additional levies for the other half starting on Dec. 15. Trump raised taxes last week after China raised duties on $75 billion in U.S. goods, including soybeans.

Randy Miller, a soybean and corn farmer, has been in the business for 30 years, but the past two have been the most challenging of his career. Soybean prices have fallen roughly 7 percent in the last year. The average price today is around $8.85 per bushel, but farmers need $10 per bushel to breakeven.

“This has been probably one of the worst years in history as far as adversity for the farmer,” he said.

Miller also raised cattle and hogs, which are among other products farmers are struggling to sell due to the tariff’s on China.

“We can only survive so long raising crops at a below break even cost. It’s hard to support somebody who’s negatively affecting your bottom line,” he said. “His [Trump’s] support is probably dwindling based on the fact that farm country is suffering right now.”

Former state secretary of agriculture, Bill Northey, who now works in the USDA, was back in Iowa for a roundtable discussion with local agriculture leaders Thursday. However, Northey did not give farmers a lot of good news about trade war.

“I thought we were close to an agreement back in May, I was told we were close,” Northey said.

Rolland Schnell, a soybean farmer at the meeting, said he worries if they will be able to recover from losses during this time period.

“We were really dependent on China and it has forced the industry to reach out to smaller markets, we’ve never regained what we lost,” he said.

In the interim, Northey urged farmers to sign up for the government’s bailout program for farmers, also know as the market facilitation program.

“It’s not perfect by any means and it’s not designed to replace trade, it’s designed to help bridge from here to there,” he said. 

Miller said such programs are merely a band-aid, and don’t entirely solve the problem.

“Would you wanna go work for six months to a year for nothing? It’s very frustrating to know what you’re doing could end up as a loss,” he said. “We wanna raise a product and sell it, we don’t wanna raise a product that has no market and get a payment from the government.”

Until a deal is made, Iowa farmers will continue to pay the price of the trade wars.

“This demand won’t come back overnight, even if something is worked out they say it’ll take seven years to re-establish the trade,” Miller said. 


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