Farm Bureau Report: Connection exists between threat of tariffs and losses for Nebraska farmers

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According to a new report by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, a strong connection exists between the threat of U.S. imposed tariffs on trade partners and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in Nebraska agriculture exports in 2017.

A press release by the Nebraska Farm Bureau states the “Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade” report uses the most current United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade data to identify the 2017 value of Nebraska agriculture exports on a per-commodity, per-county, and per-farm and ranch basis.

“While retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture commodities didn’t occur until President Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on our trading partners in May of 2018, the President began threatening the use of tariffs in trade negotiations in January of 2017, an entire year earlier. This new report reviews 2017 numbers and provides an economic perspective on how harmful the threats of tariffs were to Nebraska agriculture exports well before the President enacted tariffs and agriculture began to suffer from other countries’ retaliatory measures,” said Jay Rempe, Nebraska Farm Bureau senior economist and author of the report.

According to the release, the analysis in the report provides direct comparisons between newly calculated values for Nebraska agriculture exports in 2017 and the value of Nebraska agriculture exports for 2016, allowing for a comparison of how U.S. talk of implementing tariffs negatively impacted Nebraska agriculture.

“Nebraska agriculture exports were down almost $200 million in 2017 compared to 2016. Most of that decline was due to decreased exports of soybeans, which were down $130 million, and reduced corn exports, which fell more than $140 million. It’s no coincidence those declines coincide with U.S. tariff threats made against some of our largest trading partners like China, Mexico, and Canada. China is the largest consumer of Nebraska soybeans, while Mexico is the largest buyer of Nebraska corn and the third largest purchaser of soybeans. Canada is Nebraska’s top overall agriculture export market,” said Rempe. “The tariff threats clearly impacted those markets for Nebraska agriculture commodities.

10/11 NOW spoke with a farmer who says the tariff threats cost him and other farmers, thousands of dollars.

"That's a lot of money an acre. You're talking $100 an acre, and at farm business, the average size farm is 1,200 acres, so multiply it out, that's a lot of money," said Farmer Jim Stewart.

The report found in 2017 the price of soybeans per bushel decreased by 61 cents. As for Stewart, he says it's worth it to put up with the low prices now to get the market access open. But hopes there is some change soon.

"The AG dealers don't do as well, the equipment dealers don't do as well, everybody suffers because there isn't money for us to spend,” said Stewart.

Although Nebraska soybeans and corn exports were off in 2017, Nebraska beef exports were up $112 million and pork exports were up $16 million over 2016 export amounts.

“The boost in beef and pork exports was good for Nebraska and needed to help offset overall declines in corn and soybean exports. Fortunately, Japan, which is far and away the largest buyer of Nebraska beef, and the largest purchaser of Nebraska pork, was never targeted for tariffs. Our beef and pork producers escaped the negative market impacts of tariff threats in 2017,” said Rempe.