How Trump’s Trade War Costs Farmers

"It is a punch in the gut." President Trump's trade war with China is heating up — and farmers are paying the price.

Bracing for deeper pain from his trade fight with China

China has stopped buying U.S. farm products — a retaliation against President Trump’s plan to put new tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods. Now, this is costing American farmers. Trump's move is the latest escalation in an ongoing trade war, which started in July 2018. An official of China's top economic planning body had insisted that Chinese companies have purchased millions of tons of soybeans, sorghum, wheat and other farm goods since the end of June, Trump's tweets to the contrary notwithstanding.

In 2017, China bought $19.5 billion in U.S. farm products — that dropped by more than half, to $9.1 billion, in 2018 based on data from the USDA. Soybean farmers have been especially hit because China is their biggest customer — buying 60% of U.S. soybean exports in 2018 according to the U.S. Census. In May, the Trump administration announced a $16 billion aid package for farmers and Trump promised more after Beijing’s announcement. Speaking to state media, Cong Liang, secretary-general at the National Development and Reform Commission, was responding to Trump's complaint that China has reneged on its pledge to buy from U.S. farmers. Some 2.27 million tons of American soybeans were shipped to China from the end of June to the end of July, according to Cong. Another 2 million tons are to be loaded this month, he said.

Despite no trade deal, most farmer still back Trump. His overall approval rating among farmers is at 79% as of July 2019 based on a published report from the Farm Journal Pulse survey. As President Trump maps out his re-election bid, farmers in this battleground state are backing him even with the U.S. Farm Belt bracing for deeper pain from his trade fight with China. The U.S. and China are set to continue trade negotiations in September 2019.