US soybean farmers wary of possible US-China trade war


A ‘Washington-led disaster.’  That is how the Illinois Soybeans Association has described the potential trade war with China. Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. soybeans are exported to China each year.

President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on metal imports from China and on Chinese products collectively valued around $50 billion has left soybean farmers concerned about retaliatory tariffs.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

An early spring morning in Illinois and the Aavang family are preparing to plant soybeans on their farm. It’s estimated that the U.S. will grow around 89 million acres of soybeans this year. 

That means soybeans has become the king of U.S. crops, exceeding corn, for the first time since 1983.

More than half the total U.S. crop , 57 percent, is exported to China with the market valued at nearly $14 billion. But there are fears that could soon change.

The White House has already imposed metal tariffs on China and will soon impose duties on Chinese goods-as many as 1,300 product lines, many of them high-tech.

The farming community fears China will slap retaliatory tariffs on some of the biggest U.S. exports to China, which includes soybeans.

“If there was any type of tariffs on our soybeans going to China it would be disastrous. We really rely on our export markets. China in particular is our biggest market. If we send our soybeans anywhere else, it would cost more and at the end of the day, farmers will end up being hurt by that,” said Mark Albertson, Illinois Soybean Association.

For many farmers, the threat of these tariffs is of real concern. With some even warning that they could drive some farmers out of business.

U.S. farmers say the last thing they need is a potential trade war with China. Crop prices have seen an overall price decline of roughly 15 percent since 2012.

Farmer Michele Aavang is among the concerned.

“This news could really not be coming at a worse time for American farmers. We’ve been faced with low commodity prices for a number of years now all this is doing is adding concern and uncertainty for farmers. I would say if it goes to a trade war that would be devastating for agricultural communities, ” said Aavang.

It’s not just China that could target the U.S. soybean market.

Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. soybeans, a further concern for farmers as the U.S. continues to threaten a pullout from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Soybean farmers are faced with natural disasters all the time, whether it is floods or tornadoes, or what-not. We are used to that. But, what we are not used to is a Washington-led disaster. And, at a time when soybean prices are already pretty low. As soybean farmers it is our number one issue. Maintaining trade relations, maintaining international markets is our number one issue,” said Mark Albertson, Illinois Soybean Association.

As farmers across the country begin planting soybeans they’re deeply concerned that by harvest time, new tariffs could make it a lot harder to sell their crops.