Soybean growers unhappy over talk of keeping tariffs in China agreement

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Davie Stephens, president of ASA and a soybean grower from Clinton, Ky., says soybean growers are tired of being collateral in trade war.

U.S. soybean growers are expressing their displeasure over President Trump's comments over the possibility of leaving tariffs in place under and agreement with China.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) said lifting of the Section 301 tariffs by the U.S. in exchange for China removing its retaliatory 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybean imports is essential to any initial agreement between the two countries.

“The President’s statement that the tariffs should remain in place to ensure China’s compliance with the terms of a deal, rather than being rescinded as a part of that deal, is confounding," said Davie Stephens, president of ASA and a soybean grower from Clinton, Ky., in a news release. "If reciprocal tariffs have generated current pressure to reach an agreement, why wouldn’t removing the tariffs and relieving that pressure be a necessary part of any initial deal? How can the U.S. and China reach any deal without doing so?”

While Stephens says he understands the President’s concern regarding enforcement of other provisions of a deal, given China’s past record of walking back its commitments, he says growers are growing weary of the lengthy trade war that has eaten into their livelihoods.

"We would understand why the President would want to include a “snap back” mechanism to re-impose tariffs in the event other parts of any agreement were not honored," he said, "but we are tired of being collateral damage in this ongoing trade war and suffering because of these tariffs.”

Not acceptable

ASA has gone on record in prior statements that it is has not been enough for China to make one-off “good will” purchases of U.S. soy over the last three months. Any longer-term plan to “manage” soybean trade under which China would guarantee to buy specified amounts of soybeans over an extended period of months or years—but still keep its 25 percent tariff in place—is not an acceptable alternative to full market access.

Soybean farmers continue to suffer from restricted access to China, by far the industry’s most important foreign customer. With depressed prices and unsold stocks forecast to double before the 2019 harvest begins in September, producers need China reopened to U.S. soybean exports within weeks, not months or even longer.

Stephens says any agreement reached between the U.S. and China that does not include removal of China’s 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans would not be acceptable to American soybean farmers. Bypassing elimination of China’s soybean tariff should not be on the table.