Farmers gather in Iowa on backdrop of US-China trade war

World Today

The Farm Progress show in Boone, Iowa is a vast event. Now in its 65th year, agricultural manufacturers show off their latest products to the thousands of farmers who attend.

The United States’ largest outdoor farm event, is taking place against a backdrop of concern over trade tariffs.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports:

The event is billed as a celebration of agriculture, but many farmers are feeling more somber this year.

After the Trump administration imposed tariffs on various countries in recent months, many of those countries responded by imposing tariffs of their own, with farming as a key target.

U.S Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue spoke at the event and recognized that times are tough for farmers but says positive changes are on the way. “The President has to do what he has to do but I’d like to see it done by harvest time, so we can get prices back to where they need to be,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the Trump administration announced a trade deal had been reached with Mexico. Talks are also ongoing with Canada as the White House looks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But with crop prices falling–some below the cost of production–many farmers, including Iowa farmer Time Bardole, remain concerned. “My son just started farming with us a year ago, and we did some expanding to make room for him. An operation like ours is going to be one of the first that’s going to be a casualty if this continues on so long.”

It’s not just crop prices that’s causing concern amongst farmers. The tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S. has added a further input cost for manufacturers of agricultural equipment. And that is putting even more pressure on the farming industry as a whole. Farmer LeVerne Arndt is among those to feel that manufacturers will struggle to make sales this year.

“I feel sorry for many of the people on this ground here. They probably thought they were going to sell more equipment. Especially the larger pieces of equipment. It’s going to hurt the farm economy. And the economy around here,” Arndt said.

The developments with Mexico and Canada does give some hope to farmers. Davie Stephens, vice chairman of the American Soybean Association hopes an agreement with China will now soon follow. “China is a huge market to us. We’ve taken about 35 to 40 years to cultivate that relationship and get it worked out. And we don’t want to lose that market as once we lose that market, there is a fear for me, will we get it back?”

On the surface, it appears to be business as usual at the Farm Progress Show. But given the uncertainty over tariffs, the reality is anything but.