According to a report from The New York Times, American soybean sales to China have plummeted this year as the president wages a trade war. In fact, the most recent federal data that tracks sales through mid-October shows that American soybean sales to China have dropped by 94 percent from last year.
China is the world’s largest soybean importer. In 2017, China consumed 110 million tons of soybeans. Of that number, 87 percent were imported, largely from farmers in the United States and Brazil. The steep decline in sales to China stands to devastate American farmers.
While some farmers remain hopeful that there will be longterm gains that result from the trade war, others are less optimistic. Greg Gebeke is a farmer who works 5,000 acres outside of Arthur North Dakota, an area that produces large quantities of soybeans. Gebeke said, “I’m trying to follow and figure out who the winners are in this tariff war.” He went on, “I know who one of the losers are and that’s us. And that’s painful.”
In late October, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, announced that the government will not continue an up to $12 billion aid package to American farmers into 2019. In making that announcement, Perdue said, “Farmers are very resilient and adept in making their planning and marketing decisions based on the current market.”
Perdue went on, “These facts are known now … So farmers, even under financial duress, will make their best business decision for 2019 without the expectation of a market facilitation program.” Perdue said that his department will look at “at market conditions” but that he did not see a need to extend the financial support to farmers into the coming year, despite the devastation the president’s trade war has brought to the nation’s farmers.
On Friday, the president was optimistic that a deal with China would be coming soon. He said, “I think we’ll make a deal with China.” Trump added, “We’re getting much closer to doing something. They very much want to make a deal.” Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow was less optimistic, however, he said, “We’re not on the cusp of a deal.”