Trade tariffs costly for U.S. farmers

The Port of Seattle. Financial aid from the federal government won’t offset lower prices and lost markets caused by the ongoing trade wars, representatives of agricultural organizations say.

After reports last week that the White House was delaying additional payments to farmers to mitigate lost trade due to retaliatory tariffs, USDA announced on Monday a second and final round of assistance.

Farm groups were quick to weigh in on the announcement, saying in press statements that while they appreciate the assistance, it falls short of actual damages and getting trade back on track is critical.

The American Farm Bureau Federation said farmers and ranchers continue to feel price pressure and very real economic damage due to the trade actions other nations have taken.

“While this assistance package will help a number of our farm families during this year of economic challenges, the best way to provide lasting relief is to continue pushing for trade and tariff reform from trading partners like China, Canada, Mexico, India, Turkey and the European Union,” Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, said.

National Farmers Union said that while the assistance is appreciated, it falls woefully short of the support required to blunt current and future damages of the administration’s trade wars.

“We’ve lost markets that took decades to build,” Roger Johnson, NFU president, said.

“We’ve lost significant value on most commodities. And probably most concerning, we’re losing our reputation as a reliable trading partner — jeopardizing international markets for years to come,” he said.

The National Association of Wheat Growers estimates lost wheat sales to China and Mexico exceed $500 million.

“These retaliatory tariffs are not only harming growers through loss of sales but are also placing pressure on wheat prices,” Jimmie Musick, NAWG president, said.

“Growers want new export markets and trade deals so that this sort of assistance isn’t necessary,” he said.

National Milk Producers Federation said the mitigation payments are less than dairy producers had hoped but will provide some assistance.

“The tit-for-tat tariffs that prompted these mitigation payments continue to inflict damage across the farm economy,” Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO, said.

“We urge the administration to resolve tensions with key trading partners, including China and Mexico, as the best way to assist famers going forward,” he said.

National Pork Producers Council said the assistance is proof that President Trump is committed to U.S. farmers, but farmers would rather be producing and exporting food.

“We need to end these trade disputes soon and open new markets so we can export to consumers around the globe the safest, most nutritious pork in the world,” Jim Heimerl, NPPC president, said.

American Soybean Association said it is encouraged that buyers in China this week purchased U.S. soybeans after a long suspension in sales, but the mitigation assistance is critical.

Even with the tariffs, USDA assumed China would still purchase half the amount of U.S. soybeans it purchased in 2017. But this week’s purchases only account for a fraction of those anticipated sales, and the roughly $2 per bushel drop in soybean prices continues to harm growers, Davie Stephens, ASA president, said.

National Corn Growers Association said the 1-cent-per-bushel assistance provides virtually no relief to corn growers, who have suffered an average loss of 44 cents per bushel due to the tariffs.

“One cent per bushel is woefully inadequate to even begin to cover the losses being felt by corn growers,” Lynn Chrisp, NCGA president, said.

“USDA did not take into account the reality that many of our farmers are facing,” he said.

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