Two Ohio legislators say the large tariffs being placed on Chinese exports by President Donald Trump are warranted. But they also want to see a resolution to China’s current trade war with the U.S. before it cripples the nation’s agricultural community.
The Trump administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on thousands of Chinese goods worth $34 billion on July 20, and plans to heat up the trade war with additional tariffs in coming weeks. The president is reacting to concerns that the country is stealing U.S. technology.
China immediately responded by slapping tariffs worth an equal amount on the U.S. A large part of Chinese imports include North American agricultural products.
To offset the effect on the nation’s farmers, the president has pledged $12 billion in direct payments to them.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels told the Expositor trade is the lifeblood of the state’s agriculture. “One of every three rows of Ohio soybeans is exported. Ohio’s farmers and producers want access to global markets, and I’m hopeful they’ll get what they so desperately need,” he said.
Delta farmer Lawrence Onweller is raising about 150,000 bushels of corn and 30,000 bushels of soybeans across 1,300 acres this season. He said the trade war with China has helped drop the price of corn 70 cents from the season’s high.
“I haven’t had to sell anything at this time but come fall, at harvest time, if they don’t get it settled it’s going to affect me a lot,” he said. “(And) it’s not just what we lost here, it’s what we’re losing down the road, because Canada and Mexico and China are finding different places to buy during the trade war.”
Onweller said it took years for the U.S. to develop foreign markets, and farming is no different than other businesses. “It’s easier to keep a customer than lose one,” he said.
Still, he supports Trump’s actions. “Ever since we’ve been dealing with China they’ve been stealing and copying, and something has to be done about it,” he said.
Onweller agrees with some politicians that Trump’s $12 billion payment to farmers is little more than a Band-Aid solution.
“Farmers would much rather have open and fair markets than get government subsidies. I’d much rather cash a check from the elevator than from the government,” he said.
Republican Fifth District Congressman Bob Latta said China has never played fairly in the free market. Case in point: A U.S. company trading with the country has to offer its technology.
“When it comes to trade, they’re always taking advantage of us. They’ve never operated fairly, and that’s always been a massive problem,” he said.
If not for farmers, the U.S. trade deficit would be worse than it is, Latta said. Thirty-three percent of the soybeans China imports are from this country. Additionally, “China dumps product on the U.S. that hurts companies and businesses,” he said.
“I firmly believe that’s what the president wants – that we have an even playing field out there,” Latta said.
For that reason, he’s glad the Trump administration said it has negotiated with the European Union to purchase American soybeans and natural gas. “They’ll continue working and negotiating to make sure American goods can get to Europe without being penalized,” he said.
Farmers he’s spoken with say they simply want to sell their crops without a disadvantage.
“It helps our trade in the U.S. to have our farmers out there selling their products abroad,” Latta said. “They want trade, they don’t want the aid. What we want to see is that we have a long range strategy, and we want the barriers to be dropped. We want to be sure that American agricultural products are being treated fairly overseas.”
That being said, the congressman pointed out that Trump’s financial support of farmers “lets the countries that we’re negotiating with know that we will stand by our agricultural community throughout this process. By showing resolve, it gives us a better negotiating position to pursue trade deals that are fair for American farmers and workers.”
Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown supports the Trump administration’s tariffs against China, but only as a temporary tool to spur negotiations.
“I support action to help farmers hurt by China’s unfair retaliation,” he said. “China cheats. That’s why we needed the tariffs in the first place. So it’s no surprise they are playing dirty when we try to enforce the rules, and we have to make sure Ohio farmers are supported.”
But Trump needs to recognize that tariffs should not become long-term policy, Brown said. “The administration needs to outline a long-term strategy to bring China to the table and secure changes that benefit all U.S. industries,” he said.
Metamora farmer Keith Truckor planted 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans this season. He said, while considerably lower prices for corn and soybeans can be attributed to the tariffs, larger crops of both are driving down prices as well. Truckor said income for Midwest farmers has decreased for five consecutive years.
“It’s an added concern for all Midwest farmers. It’s really got us in a bind,” he said.
Despite the hardship, Truckor supports the tariffs, “but I hope they’re short-term, and other countries realize that free and fair trade should be a policy of all countries. I applaud the president for standing up and trying to re-form the trade policy. That being said, it’s becoming very impatient for sectors of the economy being affected by these tariffs the most…I hope this doesn’t last one to two years.
“If we get it resolved, agriculture’s got a very bright future.”
Truckor also supports Trump’s payments to farmers.
“I do agree with it. We are going through some pain because we’re trying to re-form trade policy,” he said. “But I prefer we get the trade agreements settled and we have free and fair trade for the future.’
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-4010.