U.S. farmers lost one of their biggest customers after China officially cancelled all purchases of U.S. agricultural products, a retaliatory move following President Donald Trump’s pledge to slap 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports.
China’s exit piles on to a devastating year for farmers, who have struggled through record flooding and an extreme heat wave that destroyed crop yields, and trade war escalations that have lowered prices and profits this year.
“It’s really, really getting bad out here,” said Bob Kuylen, who’s farmed for 35 years in North Dakota.
“Trump is ruining our markets. No one is buying our product no more, and we have no markets no more.”
Agriculture exports to China dropped by more than half last year. In 2017, China imported $19.5 billion in agricultural goods, making it the second-largest buyer overall for American farmers. In 2018, that dropped to $9.2 billion as the trade war escalated, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
This year, China’s agricultural imports from the U.S are down roughly 20%, and U.S. grain, dairy and livestock farmers have seen their revenue evaporate as a result. Over the last 6 years, farm income has dropped 45% from $123.4 billion in 2013 to $63 billion last year, according to the USDA.
Loyalty to Trump
Farmers are an important voting base for Trump, who is running for reelection next year. While he’s given no indication of backing off in the trade war, struggling farmers appear to remain loyal.
Trump’s overall approval rating is 79% among farmers, according to a Farm Pulse survey taken last month. And a record-high number of farmers, some 78%, said the trade war will ultimately benefit U.S. agriculture, according to a July survey from Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture. More than 75% of rural farmers voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
Mike Knipper, a grain farmer from Iowa who likes some of Trump’s policies and dislikes others, said that most farmers in his community are Trump supporters who will continue to support him through the trade war.
“It doesn’t matter who is president. People like Trump and will support him, and few will change their ideas,” he said.
“Everyone’s willing to see this through, and those government subsidy checks might help them get by for another year.”
Kulyn, the North Dakota farmer who does not support Trump, said he was frustrated that many in his community were still supporting the president despite trade issues.