BISMARCK, N.D. — The resumption
of soybean sales to China this week is encouraging to American
farmers who have seen the value of their crop plummet amid a trade
war with the world's second-largest economy, but producers see it
only as a small step and say they need more federal aid.
Private exporters reported sales of 1.13 million metric tons of
soybeans to China on Thursday and another 300,000 metric tons on
Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The Thursday report
was the ninth-largest daily sale since 1977, according to the
agency's Foreign Agriculture Service, and it comes less than two
weeks after the Trump administration reached a three-month truce in
its trade war with China during which the two sides will try to work
out their differences.
Davie Stephens, a Kentucky farmer who serves as president of the
American Soybean Association, said the resumption of sales is
"positive news" but that "it is vital that this 90-day process
result in lifting the current 25 percent tariff that China continues
to impose on U.S. soybean imports."
"Without removal of this tariff, it is improbable that sales of U.S.
soybeans to China can be sustained," he said.
China had suspended U.S. soybean purchases earlier this year but
under the truce agreed to buy more U.S. farm products. The country
typically buys between 30 million and 35 million metric tons of U.S.
beans in a normal year.
News of the U.S. sale might prompt some farmers to sell some of the
soybeans they have stored on their farms, in part because South
American crops will be hitting the world market within a couple of
months, said Huron, South Dakota, farmer Brandon Wipf, who serves on
the American Soybean Association board.
"We have a narrow window out of which to operate," he said. "I think
you'll see some farmers selling, some holding on for a little better
No beans are moving yet out of North Dakota, which typically sends
most of its annual crop to Pacific Northwest ports from which the
beans go overseas to southeast Asia.
"It may take some time to get the shuttle trains in place and get
ocean-going vessels stationed at the PNW," said North Dakota Soybean
Growers Association Executive Director Nancy Johnson. The sale
announced this week is for delivery after the new year, she said,
and it did not significantly boost prices.
January soybean futures in early Friday trading on the Chicago Board
of Trade gained 40 cents to about $9.06 a bushel. That's down from
almost $15 a bushel four years ago and nearly $10 a bushel 18 months
Soybean farmers are getting the largest share of a federal program
created to compensate producers up to $12 billion for trade-related
losses, though this year's payment of 82 cents a bushel doesn't
match a market price drop of about $2 per bushel since May.
The Trump administration has said another 82 cents might be approved
next year if a trade deal isn't reached. Both the American Soybean
Association and the National Farmers Union this week pushed for a
second payment while the administration works on a long-term trade
"The farm sector has already lost far more value to this trade war
than the (compensation) payments will provide, and damages due to
lost markets will persist long into the future," Farmers Union
President Roger Johnson said. "The administration should be doing
everything it can to protect the men and women who feed, fuel and
clothe this nation."
North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate
Agriculture Appropriations Committee, said Friday that he stressed
the importance of the second payment to Office of Management and
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
Not getting a second payment could be a "deal-breaker" for some
farmers in terms of their support for the Trump administration,
according to Wipf.
"They would see that as a broken promise by the administration," he
said. "We're of course encouraging the administration not to make
the miscalculation that this little bit of detente we have with
China has suddenly fixed all the problems we have."