Virginia soybean farmers hurt by Chinese trade tariffs

newspaperChina is the No. 1 export destination for $691 million of Virginia’s agricultural exports, so China’s retaliation for recently imposed U.S. tariffs is hurting the state’s farmers.

“Since the highest tariffs were levied at China, and they are the No. 1 export destination for Virginia ag and forestry products, this trade war is hurting our farmers,” noted Wilmer Stoneman, director of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Agriculture, Development & Innovation Department.

In 2017, total cash receipts from Virginia’s agricultural exports were $2.64 billion. The top export was soybeans, which are bearing the brunt of the tariffs. Other top exports to China are wood products, tobacco, pork, poultry, soy meal and soybean oil.

Virginia agriculture products are mainly shipped from The Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads. The state’s agriculture and forestry exports account for more than half of all containerized exports that move through the port.

Last year, $595 million worth of soybeans were exported from Virginia. That includes Virginia soybean exports as well as beans that pass through from other states and are exported from The Port of Virginia.

Soybeans are big business in Virginia. Over the past five years, the state’s growers harvested an average of 16.6 million bushels of soybeans and averaged 30.7 bushels per acre. Soybeans bring in more than $200 million in annual cash receipts.

“However, soybean growers are not the only ones being affected by the trade tariffs levied against China,” Stoneman explained. “They’re hurting our beef cattle, dairy and pork producers, as well as other small grain growers.”

After the Trump administration levied tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods in a dispute over Beijing’s high-tech industrial policies, China retaliated with duties on U.S. soybeans and pork. Trump has placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, arguing that they pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Since then, the White House authorized U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide $12 billion in assistance to farmers affected by the trade tariffs. Payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs are expected to be available by Labor Day.

“On the one hand our farmers appreciate the assistance; on the other hand, they want a resolution to the tariffs dispute and a free market for their products,” Stoneman remarked. “Our farm economy is already hurting, and a prolonged trade war is just going to make the situation worse.”

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