Farmers have long stood behind Trump’s mission to get a better trade deal with Beijing that addresses long-standing issues with what they say are unfair trading practices.
The escalated tariffs don’t hit agricultural products directly, since most were already facing a 25% tariff imposed by China last year. But the news still sent commodity prices plummeting.
“The President of the United States owes farmers like myself some type of plan of action,” John Wesley Boyd Jr., a soybean farmer in Baskerville, Virginia, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Monday.
“Farmers were his base. They helped elect this president … and now he’s turning his back on America’s farmers when we need him the most,” he added.
Soybean, corn, and wheat growers have been battling tariffs from China for nearly a year now. Beijing imposed those duties in retaliation to tariffs put on Chinese products by the Trump administration.
But Trump has sounded positive about progress toward a deal that would lift those tariffs since meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in December, and farmers took Trump’s reassurances seriously.
John Heisdorffer, an Iowa farmer and chairman of the American Soybean Association, decided to plant about the same amount of corn and soybean this year, figuring a trade deal was near.
“We kept hearing that talks were going well, it sure looked like this was all going to be taken care of soon,” he said. Now, he added, “there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of emotions right now for farmers.”
In the Midwest, they’re also battling wet and cold weather that delays their planting season — and could result in a lower yield for the year. Grant Kimberley in Iowa is still putting his corn crop in the ground, which he usually finishes planting by May 10. He hasn’t started planting his soybeans yet.
“This can’t go on for an extended period of time. We need a trade deal done soon, and in the meantime farmers are probably going to need another round of aid payments,” said Kimberley, who is also the director of market development at the Iowa Soybean Association.
“They can sell for less and make as much money until it’s straightened out. Our farmers will be happy. Our manufacturers will be happy. And our government will be happy because we’re taking in tens of billions of dollars,” he said.
Late last year, Beijing pledged to restart buying American soybeans as part of the negotiations. But purchases made so far haven’t made up for the loss last year. China was by far the biggest export market for US soybean growers.
On Friday, the leading wheat, soybean and corn grower industry groups put out a joint statement expressing their opposition to Trump’s move to escalate tariffs. The three commodities represent about 171 million acre of farmland in the United States.
“Farmers have been patient and willing to let negotiations play out, but with each passing day, patience is wearing thin,” said National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp in the statement. “Agriculture needs certainty, not more tariffs.”