how tariffs affect farmers

The Effect of the Trump Administration’s China Tariffs on Farmers


As the trade war with China stretches into its second year, the agricultural industry has been hit hard. Many farmers felt that the $12 billion aid program set up in 2018, after the first series of tariffs were levied, didn’t do enough to prevent losses. Meanwhile, economists who analyzed the subsidies found them to be not as effective as opening foreign markets to trade. 


After last month’s unsuccessful trade negotiations between the U.S. and Chinese presidents, the White House raised tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, with President Trump threatening to raise duties on an additional $325 billion worth of imported items—accounting for nearly all of U.S. imports from China. In return, Chinese president Xi Jinping, promised “necessary countermeasures,” in addition to the tariffs that have already been levied on $110 billion in U.S. products.


As the trade war escalates, the Trump Administration is looking into additional aid for farmers. “Make no mistake about it, we have already had preliminary discussions in the White House for additional support for farmers if this impasse with China continues,” said Vice President Mike Pence, the vice president, during a May 9 event in Minnesota. But with no solutions on the table at the moment, and the vast majority of economists  rejecting the argument that tariffs are good for the United States, farmers are left wondering what will happen next.


Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), released this statement:


“China’s unfair and manipulative trade practices are clearly a problem that need to be fixed. But addressing these practices has created new problems for American farmers and ranchers in the form of lost export markets, a commodity glut, and severely depressed prices.


“We are more than a year into this trade war with China, and this most recent escalation suggests that there is no end in sight. At this point, we can’t expect export markets to go back to the way they were—the damage has already been done. In the long term, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we establish the economic sustainability of agricultural production in the U.S. But until that happens, struggling family farmers and ranchers are in desperate need of a lifeboat to keep them afloat, whether that’s another round of Marketing Facilitation Program payments or some other form of economic disaster assistance.”