Farmers to Trump: 'Enough is enough'

Illinois Farm Bureau joins Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign in urging end to trade war

A patchy soybean field in central Illinois: even when harvested, where will they go if not China? (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

A patchy soybean field in central Illinois: even when harvested, where will they go if not China? (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Farmers are telling President Trump, “Enough is enough.”

After Trump and China went through another round of threats and retaliatory tariffs Friday, an alliance of 150 business and agriculture groups known as the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign issued a statement to the president Monday urging an end to his trade war with China.

“The administration is betting the health of our entire economy on a tariff strategy that is a proven loser,” the statement read. “These added tariffs will ratchet up consumer prices, stall business investment, escalate uncertainty, and cost American jobs.

"Congress can’t sit on the sidelines any longer while jobs, retirement savings, and local farms are put at risk by a trade war that gets more dangerous by the day," it added. “Enough is enough.”

The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland Campaign and posted a story on the message sent to the president on its website.

After raging with a trade war, tariffs, and retaliatory tariffs through last year and on into this year, Trump announced earlier this month he’d be ratcheting up tariffs on Chinese imports an additional 10 percent, although he delayed higher tariffs on popular consumer goods like smartphones until Dec. 15 in order to minimize the impact on the holiday shopping season. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau report, “China announced Friday that it will impose additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports. The new tariffs of 5 percent and 10 percent will go into effect on Sept. 1 for some products and on Dec. 15 for others. Also on Dec. 15, tariffs of 25 percent will be imposed for autos and 5 percent for auto parts.”

China turning its attention to auto imports didn’t placate American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who said it “signals more trouble for American agriculture.”

“Farm Bureau is currently assessing the details of this announcement, but we know continued retaliation only adds to the difficulties farm and ranch families are facing and takes the situation in the exact wrong direction,” Duvall said. “Continuing negotiations is the best way to restore certainty to export markets farmers and ranchers depend on. We need substantive trade agreements that ensure American agriculture can provide an abundant and safe food supply for the world’s growing population.”

Trump has approved $28 billion in handouts to farmers hurt by his trade war — $12 billion last year and another $16 billion this year — but critics charged those payments went primarily to the largest farms. Although soybean farmers were among the top beneficiaries, Illinois Soybean Growers formally said they need “trade, not aid.”

Farmers were left with little if any wiggle room after heavy spring rains and flooding delayed planting this spring or prevented planting entirely. The U.S. Department of Agriculture did declare all of Illinois to be an agriculture disaster, making farmers and others eligible for disaster-relief funding, but corn growers felt blindsided by a “shocking” USDA report earlier this month they feel overestimated this year’s corn crop, resulting in price drops on the futures markets. called it “another gut punch for farmers.”

The USDA Crop Production report estimated that Illinois corn production would hold fairly steady at 10.5 million acres, down slightly from last year’s 10.9 million acres, and with an expected yield of 181 bushels an acre, down from 210 last year.

Illinois Corn Growers Association Executive Director Rodney Weinzierl issued a statement in response saying: “Illinois Corn does not have an in-house methodology to either confirm or contradict the (National Agricultural Statistics Service) estimates. So minus the opportunity to consult a crystal ball, we’re in this just like everybody else and we won’t know what 2019 corn production is until it’s in the bin and reported by farmers.

“There does seem to be a disconnect somewhere,” he added, “because the NASS acreage estimate for corn planted in Illinois is higher than what our farmer-members are telling us is out there, and higher than the numbers that are being shared anecdotally by crop-insurance agents.”

The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, an annual survey created by the Illinois Corn Growers in the 1970s, also begged to differ with its estimates delivered Monday. It projected Illinois corn growers would produce just 171 bushels an acre, down 11 percent from last year’s estimates.

“The Illinois crop was subpar,” Pro Farmer Editor Brian Grete told after leading the eastern leg of the state tour. “Too much variability in the crop within fields and field to field. It’s hard to build much yield with variability.”

The tour also estimated that Illinois soybean production would decline a full quarter from last year’s record harvest.

FarmWeekNow reported that USDA officials left the tour after “a USDA employee received a threat, via a phone call, from a frustrated farmer in Henry County.”

According to FarmWeekNow, “Farmers remain frustrated by USDA’s estimate of 90 million corn acres nationwide, despite 11.2 million prevented-plant acres.” Grete expected the USDA to lower its estimates on this year’s crops with its next production report, adding, “The big question at this point, especially in the eastern Corn Belt, is how much of the crop makes it to the finish line.”