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As I See It

Tariffs making times tougher for Wisconsin farmers

Scott Robert Shaw



Farming is a tough business. But perhaps never more so than right now. Just take a look at soybean farmers. Soybeans are big business in Wisconsin. Or they used to be. But soybean prices have dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade, and soybean farmers have now lost their biggest customer, China. As a result of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, the United States has slapped tariff hikes on a number of Chinese products, while China has raised tariffs on items we sell there, like soybeans. That has left farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere with lost sales. Soybean sales are down by 90% since the tariffs first took effect.  And even if this trade war ends soon, the damage may already be done. China is now importing its soybeans from countries other than the United States. There is hardly a guarantee that even if this trade war ends, they will again start buying soybeans from Wisconsin farmers. And there is no guarantee those Wisconsin soybean farms will still be around. Our family farms are in crisis, and that crisis is being made worse by the ongoing trade war.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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    May 21, 2019 at 8:15 am

    Do you understand the fact that soybean prices were in the dumps way before the China issue. You are a bad reporter, or should I say opinionated opinion guru.

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    Kevin Hoyer

    May 21, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    While China was our biggest customer for US soybeans, they are nktbthe only customer. Other markets have opened in the Times since China placed tariffs on US Soybeans. Yes, China placed the tariffs, not the US. New markets in the Middle East, North Africa, the EU the pacific rim and even in South America has opened up to accept US soybeans. While the tariff did have an initial knee jerk reaction within the market, it is not the real reason soybean prices are so low. The US grew record acres of soybeans in 2018 which led to record production, coupled with strong Brazil production, that has put the world supply of soybeans at record highs. Once the world can eat through all the production, prices will rise again. Soybeans aren’t the only Ag product suffering form low prices either, as almost all Ag products are in an oversupply stage, it is easy to want to blame just one thing for our farm economy struggles, but the reality is that it is multiple conditions putting us farmers in this position. This trade war is primarily with one country which has been fleecing us for decades. There are other customers and as China buys products from other suppliers, which have finite quantities, that just opens the doors to new and potentially better markets than what we had with China.

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