There is a trade war brewing, and United States farmers are caught in the middle.
As a candidate, Donald Trump told voters he would take a hardline stance against countries that use unfair trade agreements to the detriment of U.S. workers. The president made good on his promises last month when he imposed tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel. Just days ago, the administration proposed an additional $50 billion tariff package targeting Chinese goods, including electronics, shoes, and furniture.
In response to Trump’s tariffs, China announced it would put a 25 percent tax on all soybeans, cars, and airplanes imported from the United States. The latest announcement is in addition to the tariffs previously announced by China that will hit imported pork and fruit.
Following the announcement, the price of U.S. soybeans opened by plummeting over 50 cents per bushel, with the price of corn also taking a hit. For farmers already selling corn and soybeans at or below the price of production, this was unwelcome news. The farm economy has been struggling mightily lately, and farm families cannot afford to take continued losses for much longer.
We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2018
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning saying we are not in a trade war. Instead, he suggested the United States lost any trade war with China a long time ago, because we have an annual $500 billion trade deficit and our intellectual property rights are routinely ignored.
Unfortunately, this certainly feels like a trade war where farmers have drawn the short stick. But, fine, we can call it a “trade disagreement.”
No one is saying that the current trade deals we have are perfect, especially with China. The country has certainly done things to manipulate the markets, including to the detriment of farmers. I understand voters who want an administration willing to stand up to the Chinese government and tell them to cut out the shenanigans. However, the solution to our trading woes is not to anger our trading partners and employ protectionist policies that will destroy those relationships.
We need China as a trading partner. The U.S. exported $19.6 billion in agricultural products to China in 2017, according to the USDA. The two tariffs announced by China would impact roughly $19.5 billion in agricultural commodities.
Before the keyboard warriors jump on to tell me how rural America is getting what it deserves for supporting Trump, consider how your attitude is part of the problem. While much of the 2016 presidential election remains an enigma, I believe rural America made a choice based on the fact that it has been left behind in so many ways. To be fair to those rural voters, Trump has done some positive things for agriculture, such as rescinding the controversial WOTUS rule.
But leading our country into a trade war with China is not good for farm families and only exacerbates our struggles.
Right after the presidential election, I cautioned rural Americans not to disengage from the political process. Whether or not you voted for President Trump, as so many rural Americans did, no politician should be left to govern without hearing directly from farmers on a regular basis. Agriculture must always, always be engaged in politics. From the ballot box to the halls of Congress and the president’s desk, our elected officials need to hear from us and be made to understand how their actions impact our industry.
This is one of those crucial times.
Many agriculture groups have already released statements urging the president to rethink these actions and remediate them for the sake of those growing our food. They are absolutely right, and we also need everyone else to speak up. We need to make the president understand how protectionist policies are detrimental for our economy. We need people to understand how raising tariffs on commodities like soybeans hurts families in our rural communities. We need our elected officials to understand that we should embrace free trade and open up new markets, not close off already existing markets.
I still have hope that the Trump administration will sort this out before prices completely bottom out. I hope that there is a solution that will end up favorably for the United States.
Disputes with our trading partners cannot fall on the back of family farmers. Quite frankly, I’m not quite sure how much more we can take.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.