Trade dispute with China sows fear among US soybean farmers

World Today

Trade dispute with China sows fear among US soybean farmers

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s planning another trip to China to resume trade talks, but Beijing said it knows nothing about it. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is looking to use the revenue gained from tariffs on Chinese goods to help farmers affected by Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs. CGTN’s Dan Williams talks with farmers who said they welcome the aid, but would prefer to see an end to the trade battle.

The Aavang farm in Woodstock, Illinois, has developed a number of revenue streams over the years, from dairy to corn. The focus right now is on planting soybeans following months of wet weather, but the key concern for farm owner Michele Aavang remains the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

“We really need a win in agriculture,” said Aavang. “This has really been going on for too long. We need to have some kind of resolution with China. That is the most important thing right now for most farmers.”

Following months of U.S.-China talks, the two sides appeared to be getting close to a deal. But then, earlier this month, hopes were dashed as U.S. President Donald Trump went ahead with long-delayed plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion of goods imported from China, from 10 percent to 25 percent. China responded by targeting $60 billion worth of U.S. goods for added duties.

“I’ve been a skeptic of getting to an agreement from the start,” said Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin with the University of Illinois. “Because essentially what I think we have, is two countries that think they have the strong hand in the negotiations.” Even if a deal is secured, he does not see a positive outcome for U.S. farmers.

“History tells us that once these kind of ruptures occur, it is very difficult to ever get back what was lost,” he said. “Because it is natural for the other side to want to diversify their suppliers, and they will simply say to themselves that we will never be that dependent on another single supplier again.”

If that proves true, it could be a devastating blow for many U.S. farmers.

“It sounds like this could go on for years, and we just can’t deal with it out here in the countryside,” said Aavang. “We are in our sixth straight year of declining farming income and there is not a lot of good news in sight. We are seeing farmer morale go down and it is just getting harder to be optimistic.”

This field will soon be full of soybeans, but it’s still uncertain whether there will be a market for them to be sold at harvest time.