There’s little doubt that past tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on China impacted exports of some U.S. agricultural commodities, but how much is not certain.
It’s also difficult to characterize how many farmers are angry at Trump for the tariffs or whether they support his efforts to make trading between the two countries more even.
Tariffs have been partly to blame for reduction in soybean exports during the past marketing year, which began Sept. 1. However, weekly inspections showed a rebound in the USDA exports report released June 6. There were 19.5 million bushels of soybeans inspected for export for the week ending June 6, up from 13.9 million bushels the previous year, USDA said.
Overall, though, soybean exports have declined this marketing year. Soybean inspections/exports as of May 30 were 1.27 billion bushels, nearly 27% lower than last year's 1.72 billion bushels, USDA said in its May 30 inspections report.
“Soybeans that have gone from North Dakota that we expected to be exported out of the PNW have gone down dramatically this year,” said Nancy Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.
There were a total of 201.25 million bushels shipped from the Pacific Northwest port so far this marketing year, 54.5% less than the 442.2 million bushels exported from the port last marketing year, the May 30 USDA report said. Exports to China from the PNW port were 66.5% behind last year, the May 30 USDA report said. So far this marketing year, there were 145.7 million bushels shipped from the PNW port, compared with 435.1 million this year.
“You can see it in our market right now," Johnson said.
Prices have fallen as a result of China not buying as many bushels of U.S. soybeans, she said.
Not only farmers, but also railroads and grain terminals that invested large amounts of money in improving infrastructure to accommodate soybean movement to the Pacific Northwest port have felt the effects of the tariffs, Johnson said.
But Trump took a necessary step when he imposed the tariffs, said Jeff Mertz, a Hurdsfield farmer and president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t want any tariffs, but the tariffs are on and we will have to go with it,” Mertz said. “I think for many years the U.S. has taken a back seat to China and let them walk all over us.”
The Trump administration has tried to compensate for the money lost in the tariffs by announcing a $16 billion aid to farmers, Mertz said.
“They’re trying to do their part to make it fair," he said.
Another factor weighing on soybean imports is African swine fever which resulted in a lot of swine deaths in China, creating less demand for soybean, according to Johnson and Mertz.
“Their pig population is in dire straits. That’s having a big impact, also,” Mertz said.
North Dakota Wheat Commission President Neal Fisher indicated he believes that the signing of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement should show both China and Japan that the U.S. is serious when it talks trade.
“I think it is a very good statement,” Fisher said. “This is another step in the right direction. "