Although the Trump administration has been escalating tariff threats against China, not all farmers see it as a bad thing.
Trent Loos, a sixth generation Nebraska farmer and Rural Route radio host, described the farm and ranch community as “the most resilient community” in the US.
“We understand that we take care of God’s creation,” Loos told Midday Movers recently. “And by taking care of the land, the water, we produce the essentials of life. And the essentials of life — food, fiber, pharmaceuticals, and fuel — come from our toil. We understand that and we are willing to suffer short-term pain for long-term gain.”
It all comes back, he said, to the $12 billion that Trump handed out to farmers to offset the effects of Chinese retaliatory tariffs, which Loos described as “the only time we really got upset with policies” because the aid was unwanted.
“We want proper fair trade, not aid,” Loos said. “And that’s the policies, that’s the mindset of the farm and ranch community in this country that just wants to be paid a fair price for the products that we produce, that improve human lives around the world.”
No pain, no gain
Sales of soybeans to China are down 94% in the last year, according to the New York Times. And the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that corn will overtake soybeans as the “No. 1 planted crop” in 2019.
“Soybean production is the thing that we need to focus on, because we know how to produce commodities,” said Loos, who focuses on livestock rather than soybeans or other crops. “I don’t think that the prices we’re talking about and the news that we continue to get is relative from China, as it is, to what the price the farmer is receiving.
The USDA forecasted that soybean production for 2018 will be an increase of 7% from 2017.
“Soybean production is up,” Loos said. “And everybody wants to blame what’s happening in China without really looking at the overall supply and demand issue.”
“People in farm country are willing to take a little pain for long-term gain, is what we’re talking about,” Loos added.
‘We have to look at the big picture’
“We’re not going to switch over to growing something else,” Loos stressed. “In fact, Purdue University just released a survey talking to farmers about their planting intentions for 2019. And right now, 77% of farmers plan to plant the same number of soybeans that they [originally] planned to and would normally plant in their normal rotation.”
The other part that Loos said “tends to get left out of the equation” is that the global soybean demand continues to stay the same.
“If China’s not buying soybeans from the United States, they’re buying them from Brazil,” Loos said. “And that means that where Brazil is selling those soybeans, those markets are opening up now to what we’ve not been able to tap into previously.”
He added: “We have to look at the big picture, and the big picture is that soybeans, pork, corn, cotton, [and] tomatoes are all going to be produced somewhere in the world. They’re going to be consumed. And we just need to remain patient, because what China has been doing … they’ve not been playing fair when it comes to purchasing products from the United States. And what they’re doing is in violation of the U.S. Trade Representative — U.S. Law 301.”
‘We cannot continue to give them the farm’
U.S. Law 301 authorizes Trump to take whatever action he deems necessary if “the rights of the United States under any trade agreement are being denied, a foreign country is interfering with American benefits under any trade agreement, or if there are unjustifiable burdens or restrictions against US commerce,” per the Office of the Legislative Counsel.
“That’s the reason that we need to stay and hold steadfast on this,” Loos said. “And that’s all about giving away the intellectual property that they’ve been requiring that we give to them. We cannot continue to give them the farm to sell them products today.”
The Office of the United States Trade Representative defines the goal of Section 301 of the Trade Act as “addressing unfair Chinese economic practices and creating a level playing field that will give all Americans a better chance to succeed.”
“The [long-term] gain, we do believe, is that we are paid properly for the products that we produce,” Loos said. “The United States farmer and rancher can out-produce a safe, healthy product to supply the global needs of the world.
“One-third of the food that we produce in the U.S. is currently exported somewhere else,” he continued. “We want to meet the needs of the U.S. consumer first, and then we want to be that global supply entity that produces what people need to improve their lives. … So the end result is, quite simply, we want to be paid properly for the products, the health, the safety that we produce that improve human lives around the world.”