Faced with a devastating trade war, Illinois Farm Bureau members rallied this week to emphasize the importance of trade with China.
More than 1,200 Farm Bureau members sent emails to President Donald Trump and members of Illinois’ congressional delegation urging them to end the trade war. Farmers and IFB staff also spread the word in local, statewide and national newspapers and on radio and television stations.
“This trade war is counterproductive and will cost farmers and rural economies in the long run,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “At Wednesday's opening bell, Illinois soybean farmers lost $275 million in crop value. Illinois pork producers stand to lose $105 million in market value from tariffs on pork products announced Monday.
“We urge President Trump to work on expanding trade rather than imposing tariffs that result in retaliation against Illinois farm families,” he said. “We need action now to reverse this trade dynamic.”
The United States and China have been engaged in an escalating war of tariff threats. After the U.S. announced plans to tax Chinese steel and aluminum, China threatened to tax U.S. pork, along with various fruits and nuts.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a list of at least $50 billion worth Chinese imports eyed for tariffs, covering industries such as aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics and machinery. USTR will accept public comment on the proposed tariffs until next month.
The next day, China announced plans to tax $50 billion worth of U.S. imports, including soybeans and beef. In response, Trump ordered USTR Robert Lighthizer to identify an additional $100 billion in tariffs. He also directed U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to come up with a plan to protect farmers.
Related: Farmers ‘feel like a casualty’ of trade war, says IFB VP. Read more here.
Farmers have much at stake. China purchases 61 percent of total U.S. soybean exports – more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production. Meanwhile, agriculture has a $21 billion trade surplus.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump insisted: “We are not in a trade war with China.”
“If we’re not in a trade war, we’re pretty close to a trade war,” said Adam Nielsen, IFB’s director of national legislation and policy development. “Markets may have rebounded, but there’s a potential for there to be some financial pain. There’s an opportunity now to pause and get both sides to the negotiating table.”
IFB opposes any trade policy that reduces agricultural exports. “If these stick, there’s a potential these retaliatory tariffs will reduce agricultural exports,” Nielsen said.
American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer said the proposed tariff on soybeans will have a “devastating effect on every soybean farmer in America.”
“There is still time to reverse this damage, and the administration can still deliver for farmers by withdrawing the tariffs that caused this retaliation,” Heisdorffer said. “China has said that its 25 percent tariff will only go into effect based on the course of action the administration takes. We call on President Trump to engage the Chinese in a constructive manner – not a punitive one – and achieve a positive result for soybean farmers.”
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.