'Trade dispute with China hurts,' US farmers long for settlement

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 20, 2019
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Jamie Beyer, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, receives an interview with Xinhua at Farmfest in Redwood County of Minnesota, the United States, Aug. 8, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

"A lot less stressful!" said Jamie Beyer, a soybean grower in the Midwest U.S. state of Minnesota, referring to the life before the United States initiated trade tensions against China, a feeling widely shared by other U.S. farmers.

"But now you know, every day we're checking the market to see what the prices are doing ... The stress certainly adds to anyone's lifestyle," Beyer, who is also president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA), told Xinhua.

Praying for solution

Soybean price has been hit hard since last year, a collateral damage of the U.S. administration's tariffs against China, which makes it more difficult for farmers to stay in business as their paychecks are mainly dependent on the market, according to the industry leader, who married into farming in 2003 and joined the MSGA in 2015.

For many U.S. farmers, starting an agricultural operation requires a whopping sum of investment, including purchasing equipment, some of which even cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, it is often a long-term decision for families.

"We're all in this for the long term. It's a lifetime career and we're anticipating that our children will farm," said Beyer, adding that sustainable trade with China helps farmers thrive and sustain the business which most U.S. families aim to pass down for generations.

However, since 2018, the U.S. administration has placed several rounds of additional tariffs on Chinese imports. In retaliation, China levied tariffs on a list of items imported from the United States, including some agricultural products like soybeans.

As the world's largest consumer of soybeans, China was the destination for about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports before the trade dispute.

The ratio dropped to 17.9 percent in 2018 as a consequence of Washington's protectionist trade policies.

Beyer said U.S. farmers have become more cautious in decision-making due to the tariff situation, adding that for instance, some are forced to delay their expansion plan and take more conservative moves instead.

"On my farm, we're storing grain. So we're building a big bin to hold our soybeans until we can get a better price," said Beyer, whose family farm has 1,500 acres (about 607 hectares) of soybeans.

Farmers are used to fixing almost every issue concerning agriculture only to find they are so powerless as the prolonged trade dispute between the world's two largest economies is both "unprecedented" and "unpredictable," said the industry leader.

To weather the damage, the chief of the soybean association and her counterparts across the nation have made unprecedented efforts to diversify their export markets over the past year.

Yet, Beyer, echoed by many farmers, said that resolving the trade dispute with China tops her wish list of this year as U.S. farmers want to "have a satisfied customer," which "happened to be China for many years."

"We just pray that everything goes swimmingly and that they can come to some sort of resolution," she said.

Speaking of Washington's aid program to offset the ongoing tariff damage to producers, Beyer said "the aid is acknowledgement that specifically our industry has been targeted and hurt through the negotiation," but "we would rather have trade."

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and fourth-generation owner of his family farm that primarily produces soybeans and corn, said the United States and China should negotiate to figure things out.

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