President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ trade policies have led to a 94 per cent cut in US soybean exports to China, forcing farmers in America’s midwest to stockpile crops and hope relief comes before the rot.
After decades in which American soybean farmers were able to build considerable business by selling a huge share of their crop to China, farmers across the US are seeing the largest market destination for one of the country’s largest crops drying up.
“We’re sitting on the edge of our seat,” Kevin Karel, the general manager of the Arthur Companies, a soybean seller, told The New York Times. Mr Karel’s company has begun stockpiling soybeans outside, and they plan on laying a tarp over the product to extend its life. He said he hopes a solution can be found before that crop rots.
That drop is according to the latest federal data, which accounts for sales through mid-October, and shows that American soybean sales to China have dropped 94 per cent compared to last year’s harvest. Much of those soybeans went towards feeding Chinese livestock including pigs and chickens — and the Chinese are simply looking to other partners to fill that void.
The squeeze on American soybean farmers comes as the president hopes to force China to renegotiate trade terms on products like steel and autos, which were once dominant American industries that have fallen behind countries like China recently.
But, after Mr Trump imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion in Chinese goods, that country — and others that were hit by tariffs, including the European Union — responded in kind. Hoping to ramp up pressure on American politicians, there have now also been tariffs set on bourbon, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Mr Trump and Chinese leaders have indicated that they would like to reduce trade barriers going forward, but it is not clear when that may happen — and if it will come soon enough to provide relief for soybean farmers feeling the squeeze at the end of this years’ harvest.
“Openness has become a trademark of China,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday, referencing his desire to work through a solution.
Mr Trump has said that “we’re much closer now” to a deal, but there has been little by way of tangible evidence that that is the case.