The Chinese Finance Ministry made the expected announcement on Monday that it would respond to the most recent hike in U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports. China will raise tariff rates on $60 billion in U.S. imports, including agricultural products. The Ministry will boost tariff rates in June on more than 5,000 U.S. products. Agricultural commodities that will cost more in China include citrus fruit, berries, vegetables, and nuts. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both said over the last several days that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin work immediately on a new trade assistance package for U.S. farmers and ranchers in the event that China retaliated. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue echoed that pledge on Friday in a Twitter post. While at the G-20 Ministerial Meeting in Japan, Perdue said China indicated they would retaliate against the U.S. tariff hike. “If and when they do, President Trump is committed to supporting our producers who may be harmed by the retaliatory efforts of China,” Perdue said in Japan.
A month ago farmer optimism was running high that the trade war would soon be ending. However, that optimism quickly disappeared after U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned from talks in Beijing. The American Soybean Association says U.S. farmers are frustrated by the lack of progress between the U.S. and China in bringing the trade war to a close. “The U.S. has been at the table with China 11 times and still hasn’t closed the deal,” says ASA President Davie Stephens. “What that means for soybean farmers is that we’re losing a valuable market, stable pricing, and losing an opportunity to support our families and communities.” He says the trade negotiations are directly impacting farmers’ livelihoods. The organization says the soybean industry realizes the Administration’s reasons for trying to force China to make structural changes to its predatory economic policies. However, ASA continues to recommend that the U.S. achieve these goals through coordinated actions with like-minded countries. “The soybean market in China took 40 years to build,” Stephens says, “and as this confrontation continues, it will become increasingly difficult to recover. Soybean farmers aren’t willing to be collateral damage in an endless trade war.”