U.S. Trade, Immigration and Biofuel Policies Hit Farmers Hard

Farmer Don Bloss checks on the operation of an auger transferring corn on his farm in Pawnee City, Neb., on July 12. Farmers and agricultural economists are worried that president Donald Trump’s trade, immigration and biofuels policies will cost farms billions of dollars in lost income and force some out of business. Bloss, who grows corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat on his farm in the southeastern Nebraska community of Pawnee City, said he’s already seen a few neighbors quit farming as they struggled to make a profit even before the tariff battle began this year.

DES MOINES, Iowa >> Even before the specter of a trade war with China and other countries threatened to cost them billions of dollars, American farmers were feeling the squeeze from fluctuating crop prices and other factors that have halved their overall income in recent years.

The threat of counter-tariffs on U.S. farm goods and the impact of President Donald Trump’s other policies on immigration and biofuels, though, have some farmers more worried than ever about their ability to continue eking out an existence in agriculture.

“No matter where you look in ag right now, you see storm clouds on the horizon and some of those are a lot closer overhead than we’d care for,” said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist with Iowa State University.

Trump’s tariff threats earlier this year against China, Mexico, Canada and European Union elicited quick retaliatory measures that depressed the prices of certain U.S. agricultural products, including corn, soybeans, pork. When $34 billion worth of tariffs against China took effect July 6 and China responded with tariffs of its own, U.S. farmers were already feeling the squeeze from lower crop prices, higher land prices and other factors.

The Department of Agriculture predicted before the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs that U.S. farm income would drop this year to $60 billion, or half the $120 billion of five years ago. That projection is likely high, given what’s transpired since.

Don Bloss, who grows corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat on his farm in the southeastern Nebraska community of Pawnee City, said he’s already seen a few neighbors quit farming as they struggled to make a profit even before the tariff battle began this year.

“They aren’t making money. One has said the banker is giving up on them,” said Bloss.

John Weber, who raises pigs and grows corn and soybeans with his son about 100 miles northeast of Des Moines, near Dysart, said many farmers’ budgets were already tight going into this growing season and the impact of tariffs has made it worse.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS FOR HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER
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