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Tariffs 'Take Top Off Market' for ND Farmers

China has promised to raise soybean tariffs by 5% in September. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
China has promised to raise soybean tariffs by 5% in September. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
August 28, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – As trade tensions simmer between the United States and China, farmers in North Dakota and across the country are feeling the pain.

The Trump administration and Beijing continue to go back and forth in the trade dispute. Earlier this month, after President Donald Trump announced a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, China responded by suspending purchases of U.S. agricultural products.

Soybean farmers such as Perry Ostmo in eastern North Dakota once relied on China as an export partner for nearly two-thirds of their yield. Ostmo said the soybean market was tough even before the trade war.

"It's been going on for more than just this last year, but these tariffs have really taken the top off the market," he said. "It's well below the cost of production."

Soybeans are at their lowest price in a decade. Producers of all stripes are feeling the impact of the trade war. U.S. farm income dropped 16% last year and is at about half the level it was in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To help farmers, the Trump administration has approved two financial-aid packages totaling $28 billion, but Ostmo isn't happy with this solution, saying it shouldn't fall on taxpayers to bail out farmers. He also is afraid markets may not return.

"These markets that we've built up over the last 30 years, you know – the farmers did a lot of that themselves," he said, "and a lot of permanent damage has been done by this administration."

There's more bad news for farmers. Last week, China responded to Trump's plans to raise tariffs on Chinese imports later this year, saying it will retaliate on a number of goods, including a 5% increase on soybean tariffs and 10% increase on pork, starting in September.

The USDA statistics referenced in this report are online at bloomberg.com.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND