Recent international tariffs between the U.S. and China are beginning to impact locally-owned, family farms.
President Trump’s administration announced in early 2018 they would be placing tariffs on Chinese imports. Later in the year, China followed suit.
Now, this ongoing trade war is impacting the agricultural industry in Eastern, NC.
Soybeans are one of the many crops threatened.
”It‘s really kind of sad, soybeans don’t pencil a profit right now,” said Brent Herring, owner of Herring Farms in La Grange.
Brent and his family have been farming their 1,400-acre land in Lenoir County for three generations.
They harvest soybeans, tobacco, corn, and peanuts.
However, under this current tariff situation, life on the farm has been much different.
“I told someone the other day, I graduated college in 2010 and I never had any doubts about what I wanted to do and this is the first year I second guessed my decision,“ he said.
Herring says the market value for soybeans fell around a dollar to a dollar and a half per bushel in a months time in 2018 when tariffs were announced.
“It was not a good scenario for a lot of people,“ he said.
He said one day the market value looked good and the next it had dropped drastically.
Now, the current price per bushel for soybeans is around nine dollars. However, after paying employees and factoring in the cost to grow the crop — Herring broke even.
“So you’ve worked all year for nothing,“ he added.
It is a problem Lenoir County agricultural experts say is a widespread issue.
“They are constantly going in and out about what they need to do in upcoming years, so I would definitely say it’s an issue right now,“ said Steve Killette, road crop agent in Lenoir County.
Farmers say if the market value for soybeans would increase a dollar or two it would make a big difference.
“Unless things can work out I don’t know if we will ever see the business that we did see at one time from China,“ said Herring. “We can’t stand another two or three years of this climate.“
The United States Department of Agriculture wrote in a statement to 9 On Your Side:
“Neither President Trump nor USDA will stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations. America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by unfair trading practices by China and other nations and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers starting September 4, 2018. This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy.“
A spokesperson for the USDA adds they have issued over eight billion dollars to farmers who have been impacted by these tariffs; however, most of the money has been given to states in the Midwest.