Ag Policy Blog

'Patience is Wearing Thin' for Soybean Growers on Tariff Talk

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Last year as tariff talk with China heated up, farm groups championed the hashtag #tradenottariffs. Image courtesy of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

The American Soybean Association on Tuesday got vocal to lament what would be the "worst case" for soybean farmers if President Donald Trump moves ahead with larger tariffs for China on Friday.

President Trump's Twitter feed on Tuesday provided no clarity on whether he would impose new tariffs on China. Nonetheless, stock markets fell Tuesday with the Standards and Poor's 500 falling 1.7% and the Dow Jones average falling 1.8% after U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer said late Monday that China was backing away from previous commitments.

"Over the course of the last week or so, we have seen an erosion in commitments by China. I would say retreating from specific commitments that had already been made,” Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer said he was ready to move ahead on the president's threat to raise the tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion in Chinese products. The president argues the tariffs have helped the U.S. economy.

"For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods. These payments are partially responsible for our great economic results. The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday. 325 Billions Dollars....," President Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Based on reports, Chinese officials will stick with travel plans to continue negotiations in Washington, D.C., later this week.

The president is getting an odd mix of support on his tariff push. Former advisor Steve Bannon on Fox Business News praised his former boss while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted to the president to "hang tough on China" and "don't back down."

Some business groups reacted, warning the Trump Administration to avoid another tariff increase. Americans for Free Trade quoted critical statements from the National Retail Federation, the American Chemical Council and other groups.

Davie Stephens, a Kentucky farmer and president of the American Soybean Association, said the tariffs are "a predicament for soy growers." Stephens added, “We understand that Mr. Trump and his Administration have broad goals they want to achieve for our country, but farmers are in a desperate situation. We need a positive resolution of this ongoing tariff dispute, not further escalation of tensions.”

Stephens later stated soybean farmers have been patient during trade talks, "However, our patience is wearing thin as prices remain low and the tariff dispute drags on. The financial and emotional toll on U.S. soybean farmers cannot be ignored."

ASA called on the administration to hold off on more tariffs and get a deal reached with China. At the same time, ASA also pointed out China has only bought 5 million metric tons out of a promised 20 million metric tons of soybeans Chinese officials had agreed to purchase throughout the talks. Stephens said the entire situation creates more uncertainty. “With depressed prices and unsold stocks forecast to double before the 2019 harvest begins in September, we need the China market reopened to U.S. soybean exports within weeks, not months or longer.”

While ASA was pushing the button on China, other farm groups remained quiet Tuesday. The U.S. Grains Council and National Corn Growers Association released a report touting that grain exports have an economic impact of $55 billion a year, and support 271,000 jobs, directly or indirectly. http://heartlandgisweb.com/…

Breaking up is Hard to Do

North Dakota, at 7.73 million acres of wheat in 2018, just edged out Kansas for the top acreage spot. The group that represents those North Dakota wheat farmers, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, announced Tuesday it was leaving the National Association of Wheat Growers.

In a statement, NDGGA's president, Jeff Mertz, said that after months of consideration, the group chose to withdraw from NAWG. In recent years, Mertz said, North Dakota had seen a decline of support from the national group on issues relating directly to North Dakota farmers. And considering NDGGA was among the highest-paying dues group in NAWG, that lack of attention translates into, "we believe we're no longer seeing an adequate return on investment."

Mertz noted, "NAWG still provides value to producers on a national level. However, our foremost focus is on North Dakota farmers, and at this time we believe we can better represent their best interest by investing our resources elsewhere."

NAWG President Ben Scholz countered that the group had increased meetings with North Dakota leaders, held briefings with them and ramped up communications and travel to the state to address their issues. “In this case, NAWG went above and beyond to meet the concerns of NDGGA by giving them a national voice on Capitol Hill. NDGGA chose to put their own priorities ahead of the national organization, which is not how a national association can run effectively. The past two years North Dakota put their interests ahead of all wheat growers across the country by withholding half their dues, making it difficult to carry out the overall mission of the organization," Scholz said.

He added, “It is unfortunate that a major wheat-producing state, who provided unique insight into national policy and influenced others in the industry, won’t be moving forward with NAWG."

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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