NORFOLK — Farmers across Nebraska are rattled as a trade dispute between the US and China threatens to severely damage markets for some of the state’s most important commodities.
China has proposed a 25 percent tariff on soybeans and pork. With China buying more US soybeans than any other country, that could have a huge impact on producers like Anne Meis of Elgin.
“It’s pretty unnerving to think that we have that (to be) up against,” Meis said. “We have a good, high quality product in our soybeans but we want at least a level playing field to compete against the rest of the soybean growers across the world.”
The Meis family farm has 1400 acres of row crops with a 40-60 split of soybeans and corn. Meis says they sell about 30,000 bushels of soybeans per year and that any drop in prices could affect their already tight margins.
“Any drop in soybean prices created by a tariff is going to mean less income for us on our farm,” Meis said. “That might mean that we have less money to buy equipment, or to buy inputs, and we’ve really got to keep it narrowed down.”
As Meis and Nebraskans look on, the two powerhouse countries negotiate with words. Chinese President Xi Jinping pulled back trade barriers to imported vehicles last week but didn’t budge on farm commodities. President Trump has held firm on his trade demands and called farmers “patriots” for taking the brunt of the blow.
“They understand that they are doing this for the country,” Trump said. “We will make it up to them and in the end they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now. So between NAFTA and China and all of the things we’re doing we’re going to make them much better than they’ve ever been.”
Nebraska farmers are hoping more sacrifices don’t have to be made. Meis, who is the Board Member for some Northeast Nebraska counties on the Nebraska Soybean Board, says the trade fights would reverse progress.
“We’ve worked so hard to build relationships and to open those markets as a country, as a checkoff, as Soybean Association,” Meis said.
But the tariff threat is just another influencing factor in the up and down economy of farming.
“You’re not in farming if you can’t weather some of the ups and downs of it,” Meis said.
And Nebraska farmers are hoping they can go back to worrying about the weather instead of Chinese trade.