American farmers have “lost all hope” for a satisfactory resolution to the US-China trade war, and are pushing their government to turn to new markets after the sudden escalation in tensions last week.
US agricultural exporters such as soybean and pork producers have suffered major losses over the past year since Chinese tariffs were placed on thetir goods, and fear the protracted dispute will keep them out of the Chinese market for a long time to come.
“If you asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you I was optimistic about a deal, but now I’ve just done a 180 and I’m not optimistic at all,” Lindsay Greiner, president of the Iowa Soybean Association, said.
“It’s gone from bad to worse,” Greiner said. “I had been optimistic but last week everything blew up. It’s not good for agriculture at all.”
Jim Monroe, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said resolving the US’ trade disputes was the top priority for pig farmers, who have also faced two rounds of 25 per cent punitive tariffs from China on their exports last year.
US pig farmers export about a quarter of their produce, so have been affected by trade disputes with China and other countries including Mexico.
The value of US pork exports has fallen 14 per cent so far this year, according to Monroe. Pork producers are losing US$12 per animal because of the trade dispute with Mexico – with the US subject to retaliatory tariffs of 20 per cent – and US$8 per animal because of the dispute with China.
“We need to work on these deals, deals that we can get done, because this China deal doesn’t look good at all,” he said.
Greiner said dissatisfaction with the trade tensions would not stop farmers maintaining relations with both the Trump administration and their Chinese buyers. He travelled to China in March and plans another trip in the summer in the hope that business may return to normal.
“We were very pleased with the meetings we had [with major Chinese soybean buyers],” Greiner said. “We were well received, and everyone told us, ‘We want this trade war over just as bad as you do, and we want to get back to doing business the way we were.’
“From a financial standpoint as a US farmer, it is at least a little bit encouraging that they are going to take some of the tariff money [levied by the US] and provide some financial aid,” Greiner said.
“We’re planting a crop that is substantially below our break-even rate. There’s just no hope of making any money.”