Several agricultural associations are not pleased with the approximately $60 billion in tariffs against goods from China the Trump administration unveiled Thursday.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) reiterated its significant concern about the potential for China to retaliate against U.S. soybeans. China is the largest purchaser of U.S. soybeans, consuming nearly a third of U.S. production worth $14 billion annually. ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer issued the following statement:
“Multiple reports indicate the Chinese have U.S. soybeans squarely in their sights for retaliation, and this decision places soybean farmers across the country in financial danger. Farm incomes are down nearly 50 percent from 2013. There is a real struggle in agriculture to keep everything going right now. It’s extremely frustrating to have the administration taking aim at our largest trading partner.
“If there was any question about the likelihood of retaliation by China after previous actions by the administration to protect domestic manufacturers, that doubt was erased today. American soybean producers oppose this decision by the administration that puts exports of our soybeans to China in jeopardy.
“American agriculture has tremendous potential to improve our trade balance. Soybeans can lead this growth in China, which is projected to significantly increase soybean imports over the next ten years. We should be talking about actions that grow this important market, not risk losing it.
“Agriculture is not like other industries that can sustain extreme volatility in markets and prices. If demand drops and prices collapse, soybean farmers will go out of business. Not in five or ten years, but this year and next. Trade is an existential issue for soybean farmers. We export over half of our crop. China is the largest driver of world demand for soybeans. The tough line the administration is taking on China will lead to retaliation that will cost many farmers their livelihoods.
“We previously requested a meeting with President Trump to discuss our concerns and have received no response to date. On National Ag Day Tuesday, the president tweeted that his administration is delivering for farmers. But delivering for farmers means supporting trade and, for soybean farmers, that means supporting trade with China.”
National Farmers Union (NFU) lamented the administration’s apparent lack of a plan to safeguard the interests of family farmers. NFU President Roger Johnson said:
“Our trade agenda for the past 30 years has been to promote free trade at all costs, ignoring countries cheating on intellectual property rights and currency manipulation. While we’re appreciative of the administration’s focus on creating fair trade between the U.S. and our trading partners, their ‘bull in a china shop’ approach to fixing our trade woes is dangerous.
“Family farmers and ranchers are always the first to be hit by retaliatory tariffs, and in the case of China, significant exports markets are likely to be the first casualty. NFU is very concerned about the effects that China’s proposed retaliatory efforts would have on all agricultural products, particularly given our already burdensome inventories of grains. The President must have a plan in place to protect family farmers before seeking to remedy unfair trade practices.”
Brian Kuehl, Executive Director of Farmers for Free Trade, a bipartisan campaign to restore support for trade policies that benefit American farmers and ranchers, echoed some of the same concerns.
“These tariffs will put a target on American farmers’ backs. In fact, in testimony this morning, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that “farmers get the short end of the stick” when we raise tariffs like these on other countries.
“Given that China is the second largest export market for American farmers and ranchers, the pain from retaliation could be significant. In fact, state-run Chinese media has already indicated that American soy exports could be targeted. That would mean that the nearly $14 billion in annual soy exports from American farmers could face an immediate tax. Other reports from China have noted that American pork and sorghum exports may be targeted.
“Nobody wins in a trade war, but it’s also true that some sectors of the economy lose more than others, and over the years, American agriculture has consistently paid the price for protectionism.
“We urge the Trump administration to consider the impact these escalating tariff actions will have on farm country. With farm incomes declining, the last thing our farmers and rural communities can afford is a tax on the exports they rely on.”