Perryville Republic-Monitor: Tariffs should be ‘last resort’: Looming threat of trade war has farmers, politicians concerned
Many American farmers have been deeply rattled by last week’s announcement that China has added soybeans, cotton, corn, wheat, sorghum, and beef to a $50 billion list of products slated for tariffs that already included pork, whiskey, and cars in response to President Donald Trump’s plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on a range of Chinese products, including aerospace, telecoms and machinery.
Some, like Perry County farmer Mark Gremaud, are angry.
“Tariffs should be the last resort,” said Gremaud. “Trump always said he’s such a great negotiator when he was running — and I voted for the guy — and he goes around before he even starts negotiating and start slapping tariffs on things. To me, that should be the last resort. You go to the table and you try to strike a deal that’s good for both sides. If you fall out there, you exhaust all possibilities before you slap on tariffs.”
The potential trade war sent soybean prices spiraling in the hours after the announcement before a slight recovery later in the week and sparked immediate reaction from farmers’ advocacy groups.
“It is hard to remember a more potentially calamitous week for U.S. agriculture,” said Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst in a statement released to the media. “The Trump administration has entered into a high-risk policy, one that can bring great benefits to our citizens, but one that is fraught with danger for farmers and the U.S. economy.
“There is no winner in a trade war without a negotiated peace.”
Missouri is the sixth largest soybean-producing state in the country, producing $2.6 billion in Missouri in 2016, and the seventh largest pork-producing state in the country.
…According to Gremaud, he and other farmers in the county typically rely on soybeans for at least half their annual crop yield, meaning that the proposed tariffs would have a definite impact on their bottom line.
“Most everybody around here plants probably about 50 percent corn, 50 percent soybeans,” Gremaud said. “It’ll definitely hurt.”
China, Missouri’s No. 3 trade partner, bought 62 percent of the soybeans that the U.S. exported from 2014 to 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 25 percent of the country’s total crop.
…“There’s three things that eat soybean meal,” Gremaud said. “That’s pork, chickens and catfish. They’re talking about slapping tariffs on pork, and that’ll back things up where you may have to start cutting production. Then you’re backing up the soybean meal production. It just snowballs.”
…If farmers are worried, so are many Republican politicians, who depended on rural voters to hand them control of Congress in the last election. With the 2018 midterm elections eight months away, Trump’s faceoff with China has left the GOP vulnerable in what is usually its stronghold.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., addressed his concerns during a stop at the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday, telling reporters, “I don’t think we’re headed to the right place on trade policy.”
…Blunt’s counterpart, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., issued a statement outlining similar concerns.
“I’m eager to improve our trade deals so they’re better delivering for Missouri’s working families and businesses,” McCaskill said. “But our agriculture producers and manufacturers need stable, consistent leadership when it comes to negotiating those deals, and I agree with my Republican colleagues who’ve said the Administration needs to scale back this escalating situation before it becomes a trade war that does nothing but slam some of Missouri’s most critical economic engines.”