China’s tariffs test the political patience of farm country

By | April 4, 2018

Politico reports:

China’s latest trade actions in response to U.S. tariffs are striking right at the heart of Trump country.

Just the mere mention of the threat to slap tariffs on key U.S. exports threatens to further upend a farm economy already suffering from low prices. It also risks further alienating an important base that has long been frustrated with the administration’s trade policies.

U.S. farmers preparing to plant soybeans this season are now facing the prospect of losing money on their crops before they put their seeds in the ground, after China announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate with 25 percent tariffs on dozens of farm products if the U.S. carries through with its 25 percent levy on Chinese imports.

Trump administration officials have dismissed concerns about harm to the American economy from the escalating tit-for-tat trade war, but farming communities are already feeling the effects.

“The governments have the ability to be irrational in rhetoric and in deed longer than a single farmer has the ability to remain solvent,” said Brent Bible, a soybean and corn farmer in central Indiana. “Does it take a year? Does it take two years to finally come to some equilibrium? That’s a long time for the typical farmer to have to sit and wait for prices to become profitable.”

The Chinese market is especially crucial to American soybean farmers. The United States exported nearly $14 billion worth of soybeans to China in 2017, representing nearly 30 percent of the nation’s soybean production. [Continue reading…]

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