(ARLINGTON, Iowa) -- Pig prices are plunging – so, too, those of American soybeans.
America’s heartland farmers, in states largely supportive of President Donald Trump, say they are starting to feel real financial pain from a tit-for-tat trade war Trump once promised will be “easy to win.”
“We have loss of confidence in our products and we have loss of price,” said hog farmer Gregg Hora of Fort Dodge, Iowa. “Pig farmers are currently losing about $25-30 per pig.”
After Trump slapped steep new tariffs on imports of foreign steel and aluminum earlier this year, China, Mexico, and the European Union imposed retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars US goods – from bourbon, Harley Davidson motorbikes and orange juice to dairy products, soybeans and pork.
“Patience is wearing thin on U.S. pork producers because the next six months of market prices – there’s a lot of red ink,” Hora said. “We need the administration to come to these deals quickly.”
While Wall Street expressed relief Wednesday with word from the White House that a trade fight with Europe would not escalate, many farmers remain anxious. Existing tariffs still remain in place and the announcement did not resolve Chinese sanctions on American pork and soy which have had the biggest bite.
"I think it's a sign of progress,” corn and soybean farmer Mark Recker of Arlington, Iowa, said of the president’s announcement on E.U. talks. “We need more details with these things because it's so much in flux and they change from day to day.”
President Trump visited Peosta, Iowa, just west of Dubuque on Thursday to tour a community college and host a panel on workforce development. But it was not clear how much face-to-face time he would get with farmers like Recker who say they're already feeling the pinch from Trump's trade war.
“There's no doubt the tariffs have had a very powerful effect to the downside on our prices,” said Recker, who serves as president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
Farmers face a nearly 20 percent drop in the price of soybean harvests this year and more than 15 percent drop in the price of corn, according to the Association. The new tariffs are seen as the primary cause.
The White House this week announced a $12 billion emergency aid package of direct payments to farmers impacted by the trade war and indirect support through government purchase of surplus inventories.
“It’s a handout, it’s not something we earned,” said Rick Juchems, a corn, soybean and hog farmer in Plainfield, Iowa. “I would just as soon have access to free markets and let’s earn what we get.”
Juchems, who says he didn’t vote in the 2016 election, gives President Trump leeway to resolve the crisis – but says his patience is not unlimited.
“I’m not opposed to what he’s doing. It’s just really hard when you’re trying to make a living,” Juchems said. “I think it would be healthy in the long run, in the short run it may be a little tight.”
As Trump looks to shore up support for a re-election bid, Recker says Iowans will want to see results from the president’s promise that farmers will gain financially from the trade negotiations.
“This is what he campaigned on and this is what he's talked about as being president -- that he's going to disrupt trade," Recker said. "And I think farmers have been willing to give the president latitude as far as how he handles trade. But now it's hitting close to home, the reality is here, lower prices, we're going into the fall with a larger crop it looks like and we're going to have questions about where are our opportunities for profitability coming now?"
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