Crops are rotting in fields as Trump’s trade war bites US farmers

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Crops are rotting in fields as Trump’s trade war bites US farmers

US farmers are struggling amid the global trade war. Here, US President Donald Trump in Peosta, Iowa, in July 2018.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • American farmers are struggling to sell their products as tariffs introduced during the trade war between Washington and Beijing stifle demand.
  • In certain states, farmers are being forced into plowing their crops under — effectively burying them under soil in fields — as there is simply not enough storage room in storage facilities.
  • The problem is most acute for soybean farmers, as China generally buys around 60% of US soybeans, but purchases have basically stopped since tariffs began.

American farmers are struggling to find storage for crops that would usually be sold overseas, with some being forced to leave produce rotting in fields as a last resort, as the trade conflict between the US and China continues.

Farmers in various US states, farmers are being forced into plowing their crops under — effectively burying them under soil in fields — as there is not enough storage room in storage facilities, and they are unable to sell their products thanks to Chinese tariffs, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

All grain depots and silos are almost completely full, meaning farmers have to find their own storage solutions, or allow their crops to rot. Neither option is particularly palatable.

The problem is most acute for soybean farmers. China is the largest importer of soybeans in the world, but since the start of the trade war it has slapped US soybeans with a 25% tariff, and turned to Brazil in an attempt to meet domestic demand.

Chinese purchases generally make up around 60% of all US soybean exports, but those exports have practically stopped since the tariffs were introduced.

In Louisiana, as much as 15% of this year’s soybean crop has been ploughed under, or is too damaged to sell, according to data analyzed by Louisiana State University staff and cited by Reuters.

Read more: ‘We will never have a deal’: China’s former top trade negotiator warns Beijing is hurting itself in Trump tariff battle

The US and China’s trade war continues. Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in Beijing in November 2017.
Thomas Peter/Getty

There is some good news for farmers, however. Firstly, the Trump administration has started a programme of subsidies to try and lessen the impact of his trade war on US agriculture.

In August, the administration launched a $4.7 billion initial investment plan to help corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat farmers.

The program is slated to expand to as much as $12 billion. But according to Reuters, less than $900 million has been paid out so far.

On top of the subsidies, tensions between the two sides appear to be waning, with the US signaling a more conciliatory stance when it comes to tariffs. Trump has reportedly sidelined some of his most aggressively anti-China team members, with Peter Navarro, an uber-protectionist trade adviser, among those given a back seat.

The most significant sign that the US and China may actually come to some agreement came last week after reports surfaced that Beijing sent a letter to the Trump administration outlining possible concessions.

So far, the US and China have traded tit-for-tat tariffs on goods totalling $360 billion, with the US acting as the aggressor, and Trump threatening numerous times to place tariffs on all US imports from China, worth about $500 billion.

More:

US-China Trade War
Tariffs
Soybeans
US Farmers

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