China trade war a big worry for soybean farmers

Soybean farmers will be impacted by higher tariffs that China could invoke in response to higher U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

When President Donald Trump announced higher tariffs on Chinese imports earlier this week, it cost an Indiana farmer $50,000.

Corn and soybean farmer Brent Bible of  Lafayette, Ind., saw a reduction in the value of his crop stored from last year and for what he will produce this summer.

The price drop was "simply because of the news and anticipation of what this is going to create in terms of a trade hardship," Bible said during a Tariffs Hurt the Heartland press conference May 9.

The prices of both crops have dropped, 10% for corn and 20-25% for soybeans compared to a year ago, Bible said.

China is a large customer of U.S. soybeans. If China retaliates with its own higher tariff on soybean imports, it would increase the cost to buyers in that nation and potentially decrease demand. The price of corn tracks soybeans.

"We are operating at a loss now," Bible said.

Trump on May 5 announced a tariff increase from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of goods imported from China and a new 25% tariff on $325 billion in Chinese goods.

The tariffs went into effect May 10.

"Tariffs are taxes paid by American businesses and consumers, not by China," said David French, senior vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation. 

Small businesses are "scrambling" to figure out how to afford the hike on short notice, he said.

French said he remained optimistic that a satisfactory deal or progress could be made so the tariffs do not remain in effect.

Instead of "taxing" Americans as a negotiation tactic through higher tariffs, French called on the U.S. to work with its allies to apply more pressure on China.

"We worry that doubling down on a strategy based solely on tariffs will undermine negotiations and only hurt the economy," French said.

Bible said he hoped Trump's higher tariffs are just part of the negotiation process.

"They are trying to solve a large problem and they are OK, or (think) it's acceptable, to take losses in the process of solving that problem," he said.

The Tariffs Hurt the Heartland coalition will continue grassroots efforts to share the real-world consequences of using tariffs as a negotiating tactic, French said.

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