R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Tariffs, positive trade and more

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Rep. Rodney Davis poses with Ryder Flener, a 4-H youth member from Elizabethtown, at a recent Agriculture Committee briefing. (Rodney Davis website photo)

Illinois lawmakers are pushing back in a show of bipartisan resistance to proposed tariffs against imported Chinese goods coming to the U.S., which led to a Chinese-proposed tariff on U.S. agricultural exports. While the tariffs on soybeans, pork and other U.S. farm commodities proposed by China is the top farm story of the week, Illinois Pork officials were in Washington last week working on opening up other key trade markets. Details on these and other news items of interest to Illinois farmers and rural dwellers follows …

Illinois lawmakers fight tariffs

PEORIA — Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner offered his support to U.S. farmers last week when he spoke out against President Donald Trump’s announced tariffs on some $50 billion of imported Chinese products, which led China to impose 25 percent tariff on American products, including soybeans and pork. Also speaking loudly against the White House tariff proposal are members of the Illinois congressional delegation, who are responding in a bipartisan manner (gasp!).

“This is what happens when the president of the United States engages in reckless rhetoric at the expense of strategic policymaking. Instead of taking targeted reactions to level the playing field for American workers, … Donald Trump has carelessly brought us to the brink of a trade war that could devastate parts of Illinois’ economy and farming community,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates). “I urge the president to put down his phone, get off Twitter and proceed responsibly so we can ensure our trade policy supports, not undermines, American farmers, businesses and manufacturers.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Springfield) added: “Illinois’ farmers now join DACA recipients as the latest victims of President Trump’s temper. Illinois is our nation’s largest producer of soybeans, and a top producer of pork, and will feel China’s retaliation to threats of a trade war more than most. America cannot move forward in a blizzard of tweets and wild threats from this president.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) noted in an op-ed circulated to media that Trump is failing in his campaign-trail promise to “end this war on the American farmer” through his actions against China, as well as by backtracking from expanded trade with Cuba, threatening to cancel NAFTA and sowing confusion about how the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard applies to ethanol production. “President Trump broke that promise by impulsively igniting a reckless trade war. Hardworking farmers in Illinois — and across our neighboring Heartland states — will be its first casualties,” Bustos opined.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois also expressed his support for farmers who might suffer due to the White House-led tariffs on Chinese imports. Bloomington’s WJBC-AM reported last week that Davis said a trade war would be “devastating to the area’s farmers” and promised to work on behalf of Illinois farmers and manufacturers in trade negotiations with China.

Trade worries had already sunk “ag barometer”

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Farmers’ concerns over trade matters had lowered the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer by five points, to 135, in March — even before the White House announced tariffs on Chinese goods leading to a trade war between the U.S. and China. Based on a 400-farmer survey, the ag barometer showed nearly half believed a trade war negatively impacting agricultural exports was somewhat likely. In addition, more than one-third said they expected the U.S. to exit NAFTA. Further, 68 percent of farmers polled said now was not a good time to make large farm investments in buildings and machinery, according to project investigator James Mintert of the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture. (Ill. Farm Bureau/Farmweek)

ICGA: Corn growers affected by tariffs

BLOOMINGTON — Much attention has been given, rightfully, to the potentially devastating effect China’s proposed 25 percent tariff on U.S. products could have on the soybean and pork industries in Illinois and the Heartland. Collateral damage will also be felt by Illinois corn growers, points out Tricia Braid, communications director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association. In a recent post to the Illinois Corn website (www.ilcorn.org), she examines the strong relationship between corn and pork in the state. To note: the pork industry consumes 25 percent of the domestic corn meal market, and 80 percent of Illinois corn fed to livestock goes to hogs and pigs.

Illinois Farm Fact:

More than 1,500 Illinois Farm Bureau members sent emails to the White House, as of April 14, to ask for the elimination of proposed tariffs on Chinese imports to the U.S. by President Trump.

Pig farmers pursue positive trade

SPRINGFIELD — Eight Illinois Pork Producers Association leaders visited Washington, D.C. for two days, during a national pork producers’ legislative action conference. During meetings with each member of the Illinois congressional delegation, the farmer-leaders lobbied for visa reform to support a viable workforce for U.S. agriculture, positive trade relations, export relations with Thailand and other topics important to the state’s pig farmers.

The IPPA leaders told lawmakers that losing the NAFTA agreement would cost the U.S. pork industry $1.5 billion. They also told the delegation that positive trade relations with Thailand could open that market to U.S. pork. Removing trade barriers would be advantageous to both countries and take advantage of Thailand’s significant per capita pork consumption, according to the IPPA.

“One-on-one conversations with our Illinois congressional members, and their staff, gives us an opportunity to advocate for our industry and get in front of issues that impact us,” said IPPA president Mike Haag, who was accompanied on the trip by Pam Janssen, a Minonk farmer and IPPA president-elect, Dale Wietekamp (vice president), Jason Propst (District 8 director), Bob Frase (at-large director), Phil Borgic (NPPC board member and Nokomis producer) and Jennifer Tirey, IPPA executive director. (IPPA news)

Davis meets with 4-H in mini-summit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis met with 15 4-H youth delegates last week and received a briefing on the importance of agricultural investment in the United States. Among the outstanding 4-H youth was Ryder Flener of Elizabethtown. “It is amazing to see these young leaders engaging in the conversation and standing up for the future of agriculture,” said Davis, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture. Way to go Ryder!



–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Tariffs, positive trade and more–