Trade frustrations grow for Iowa soybean farmers

Credit: Reuters - Business (Amazon FireT
Published on May 24, 2019 - Duration: 02:11s

Trade frustrations grow for Iowa soybean farmers

As the U.S.-China trade war drags on, Iowa soybean farmers are looking for a resolution over aid - with soybean exports to China last year plunging to a 16-year low.

Lisa Bernhard reports.


Trade frustrations grow for Iowa soybean farmers

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DON SWANSON, SOYBEAN FARMER SAYING: ‘We can lose in one year what we’ve made in the last ten, that’s the problem.

And it’s so hard to get that back.’ For Iowa soybean farmer Don Swanson, the U.S.-China trade war could be digging a hole too deep.

Soybeans are the most valuable U.S. farm export, but when China sharply cut its purchases last year, soybean exports to China plunged to a 16-year low – and Swanson and wife Pat are feeling the pain.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PAT SWANSON, IOWA FARMER SAYING: ‘They were taking one row of every three rows we plant of soybeans.

That’s a lot of soybeans that they were taking.

To lose that market last year has hurt us, and I think it will hurt us for a while.’ They’re not alone, as American farmers - a key Trump constituency - have been among the hardest hit in the trade war.

To soften the blow, President Trump this week unveiled a $16 billion farm aid package.

That follows a $12 billion package his administration delivered last year.

But even Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue acknowledged that farmers would rather have ‘trade not aid,’ a sentiment recently echoed by Swanson.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DON SWANSON, SOYBEAN FARMER SAYING: ‘There’s more winners than losers in artificial trade payments, you know, these subsidies.

So, we want a level playing field and we feel it can be worked out.’ But when?

That’s what fellow Iowa farmer Dave Walton wants to know.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVE WALTON, IOWA FARMER SAYING: ‘We try to have some patience, but that frustration is growing the further we get into this.

We thought we'd have a resolution of that trade issue by now and it doesn't sound like its coming any time soon.

It's going to come to the point where this Fall we're not going to be able to pay bills or we're going to have to sell things to pay bills and that's really bad business.’ Trade talks collapsed earlier this month, with Trump raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and China retaliating with tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a G20 summit in Japan in late June.

For soybean farmers in Iowa, that meeting and hopes for revived negotiations can't come soon enough.

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