As planting season approaches, farmers worry about tariffs
BY ANNIE ANDERSEN
HODGENVILLE– There’s wheat in his fields now, but farmer Ryan Bivens says soon it will be all soybeans.
“The great thing about soybeans though, is you basically have two components. You have the meal and the oil, and we have found so many more uses,” said Bivens, the owner of Fresh Start Farms. He continued, “We’re seeing biofuels; crayons are made from soybeans.”
However, he says soybeans aren’t the sure thing they once were. He explained, “Things have been very well in the earlier part of this decade. We were starting to roll into more of a downturn because of over supply. Last year, when talks of the trade wars began and all that discussion was brought up, there was a lot of fear to us with China, because of the fact, China is our biggest importer of soybeans. If we plant ten rows of soybeans, if you look at those ten rows, six of them get exported out of this country, and three of them were going to China.”
Now, with the tariffs almost a year old, he says those fears have been realized. “I would say a good round figure to use is 20 percent. We’ve seen the market drop 20 percent because of the trade talks and tariffs,” said Bivens.
Senator Whitney Westerfield, who represents what some call the ‘bread basket’ of Kentucky, says the decrease isn’t a surprise. Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) said, “Every time, there’s a tariff. Anytime you mess with international markets in some way, you’re jeopardizing the market prices and the economies of farmers all over Kentucky, and around the rest of the country.”
“Farmers have often been known as price takers instead of price makers. We are giving what the market offers us. So, with that being said, when the trade talks began, and when the tariff situation popped up, our crop was already in a sense produced.our product for the year. There’s no turning back, making other decisions at that point,” Bivens said.
The Hodgenville based farmer says that leaves him with a difficult decision when it comes to planting his new crop. “Farmers are creatures of habit. Obviously we want to do things that are going to make money, but at the same time, we’re also gamblers.”
Even with the uncertainty, Bivens says he supports both President Trump and the tariffs, “Growing up as a child, I was taught that you respect the office of the presidency, so I’ve got all kinds of respect for that. But at the same time, and this has been a huge financial burden to us as farmers, however, I think there were things that were unfair about the trade that was going on with China. I think there were things that needed to be negotiated.”
Westerfield remarked, “I know, or at least I suspect, the president is playing something of a game of chicken. He’s hoping to drive these other countries to the table with some sort of trade agreement of some kind that’s more advantageous to the United States, and I appreciate that goal, but the tariffs do concern me and concern my constituents.”
The tariff is currently set at 25 percent. Bivens says he is keeping hopeful that will soon be a thing of the past. Currently, two Kentuckians representing the American Soybean Association are in China working on trade deals. Of that, Bivens said, “Getting reports back from them, reports from some of our other trade delegations over there, they say talks are going really well. So, I’m really hoping that by the time fall harvest is here, a trade deal has been struck.”