Farmers watching trade war

Published 1:28 am Friday, April 6, 2018

Crop plans may change if tariffs are imposed

China is planning to impose a 25 percent tariff on a number of American products, including soybeans, in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on Chinese goods, and that is worrying local soybean farmers.

“I met with a local soybean farmer and looked at the stock market and it has actually gone up a little,” County Extension Coordinator Chuck Simon said. “I don’t know a lot of farmers that plant soybeans, but if it goes down too much they’ll switch to a different crop.”

There are several foods that use soybeans in their ingredients, so Simon believes that they will not be able to impose this tariff for too long.

“From what I know, China is dependent on the world for their food,” Simon said. “Their population is so big they don’t have enough food in their country to supply their people with enough.”

The last time that Simon has seen the agriculture community hurt by international affairs was when President John F. Kennedy put an embargo on Cuba in 1962.

“That embargo really devastated farmers,” Simon said. “But I haven’t seen anything like it since.”

China was the United States’ largest buyer of soybeans last year, gobbling up $12.3 billion worth of soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Local soybean farmer Bobby Jackson said that if the stock market starts to drop he will change back to planting cotton.

“A lot of soybean farmers are out in the Midwest,” Jackson said. “Those guys will probably keep on farming soybeans, but here in Alabama there will be no point to plant that anymore if it is going to be expensive, so I will go back to planting cotton or peanuts.”

Jackson said that the American Farm Bureau is working hard to get some leeway in congress.

“Farmers are always the ones that get hurt,” Jackson said. “But the AFB is working as hard as they can to work with negotiating with congress.”

Soybeans are America’s leading agricultural export, with $21.6 billion in sales last year, with 60 percent of beans going to China.

Simon said that a lot of the soybeans are being used to add protein to food, which is why it is attractive to the people of China.

“A lot of meat is mixed with soy,” Simon said. “So China is trying to improve their diet with these beans.”

The American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer has issued a statement, saying, “Chinese tariffs will have a devastating effect on every soybean farmer in America.”