“Once China finds markets in South America, then they won’t come back and buy all the beans they bought before, all the corn they bought before, the pork, because they have other markets in place,” he said. “They’re already investing in infrastructure in Brazil, they announced this year, so it looks like they’re digging in for the long run down there.”
John Boyd, a Virginia farmer who’s also the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, foresees dire effects for small local farmers. Black-owned farms are almost entirely small-scale, with nearly 50 percent of black-operated farms under 50 acres, according to a 2012 census report. Only 1 percent of black-operated farms are over 1,000 acres. “The tariffs will certainly run small-scale soybean farmers out of business,” Boyd said. “It reduces local markets. If there’s nowhere for local markets to unload their grain elevators, then there’s going to be nowhere to sell your local commodities.” And the USDA, he says, has historically not been favorable to black farmers—something he’s worried will keep the $12 billion aid package out of their reach. “Generally, the big boys, the good old boys, they get in there and they know how to work the system and they make the system work for them, and they survive,” he said. “This is a system that hasn’t been user-friendly to black farmers. They deter them, and it just hasn’t been a friendly process.”
Boyd’s cash crop is soybeans. He’s already seen his projected profits take a hit, and he’s nervous that if the trade war continues, the hits will just keep coming. “I don’t want a handout, I want a hand-up, which is a free-market price for my commodity,” he said. “I’m very nervous about what the outcome is going to be.”
Not everyone is so concerned about the long-term effects of the trade war. Lynn Condreay is the general manager at a relatively small farmer’s co-op in Lindsay, Nebraska, which handles about 2.5 million bushels of corn and soybeans. Lindsay’s farmers weren’t as affected by the soybean tariffs as other farmers, he said, because 80 percent to 90 percent of their beans had already been marketed to soybean-meal-processing plants in the state. And he’s not worried about losing the Chinese export market for soybeans.
“They ain’t got no place else to get them but us anyway, so they’re gonna have to buy them from us eventually,” Condreay said. China tends to go to South American markets first before coming to American farmers, he said, and the tariffs haven’t changed the market pattern enough to be a cause for concern.
Above all else, though, Condreay isn’t worried about the tariffs or the aid, because he’s confident that the trade war will have a long-term positive effect on agriculture. “Before it’s all said and done, I think it’ll be a good thing. It’s something we should have done years ago, but evidently everybody else just dropped the ball on it,” he said. Trump “might not get everything he wants, but if he gets part of what he wants, should work out pretty good. That’s the way our customers all look at it, too.”