American agriculture takes hit when trade wars erupt

A trade war with China is now in progress and as always, it seems, American agriculture is being used as a major pawn.

President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, plus $50 billion in additional products, has reportedly provoked two waves of retaliation by China against American farmers who export pork, beef, soybeans and sorghum.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reports those measures are deliberately aimed at hurting Trump’s base, and they are succeeding. 

Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who chairs the Agriculture Committee, reportedly responded in anger when asked about the effects of the president’s actions.

“These are the people who voted for the president,” Sen. Roberts said. “These are his people. One county in Kansas even voted for him 90 percent, and they’re not going to be happy at all about this.”

With global prices dropping and competition rising, notes Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), “This could not be happening at a worse time for American agriculture.”

The farm sector is alarmed because it is so export-oriented. 

AFBF calculates that $135.5 billion worth of agricultural goods were sent abroad in 2016, or about one-quarter of total farm output.

But for some products, the rate of exports is much higher. For cotton, the figure is over 75 percent; rice is over 50 percent, and soybeans are calculated at “one in three beans’’ going to China.

Hog farmers sent more than $1 billion worth of pork to China last year, it was reported. Jim Monroe, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, told The Wall Street Journal: “Exports are the lifeblood of the industry.”

When exports decline, it’s not just farmers who suffer. Packers and truckers, dockworkers and merchant mariners, seed and equipment dealers — they all take a hit, too.

Farm country helped elect Trump the first time. Will those voters support him again if his trade policies continue to jeopardize their economic future?

I don’t think so.

President Trump needs to do some quick dealing to show support for American agriculture.

Yes, we all know that China does not trade fairly with the U.S.

But there has to be another way to solve the problem. No other president has solved it. Can Trump?

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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