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Farmers Wary About 2019, Ongoing Trade War

Soybean exports to China, the crop's largest export market, are down 98 percent in 2018. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
Soybean exports to China, the crop's largest export market, are down 98 percent in 2018. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
November 26, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – Concerns about 2019 are growing as the United States' trade war continues to hurt farmers.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says he's confident farmers can plan ahead for market conditions. But this year, the U.S.’ largest agricultural export, soybean, is down 98 percent to China, the crop's largest importer.

Mark Watne, president OF the North Dakota Farmers Union, says that makes it hard to know what the future holds for many producers.

He says farmers rotate their crops for better yields and to control disease, typically between corn and soybeans, which means leaving out soybeans also will affect corn.

"Just to suggest that being soybeans is low, we all switch to another crop and everything's magical – it doesn't work that way,” he states. “We tend to flood those other markets and we lower those prices, and then we have the same scenario playing out where we're planting something that doesn't make any money."

The Trump administration created a $12 billion emergency aid program this summer to help farmers caught in the middle of the country's escalating trade war.

The administration made $6 billion of that available in September and the other half is expected to be available next month.

Perdue says it's unlikely more aid will be made available after that.

Watne says farmers don't want to be in a position where they have to take government payments in order to survive. He says it would have been more effective if the U.S. had brought other countries along to fix trade imbalances.

"You have so much better chance of having success, but alone we take a huge risk of not only losing this thing but losing the market for as far in the future as we could estimate," he points out.

Watne adds that many farmers want the trade war to end because they feel like pawns in a larger game the Trump administration is playing.

He says a lot of people think it's best to let struggling farmers go out of business, but he notes that would drag down a lot of other farm operations.

"We could really see a crisis,” he stresses. “This is way more serious than a lot of people want to admit."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND