R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: China tariff, AG barometer and more

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Dereke Dunkirk and family cut the ribbon on their new hog barn during their recent open house celebration. Unfortunately, most Illinois hog farmers were not in a celebratory mood when, a few days later, Chinese officials announced a 25 percent tariff on U.S. agriculture imports, including pork products. (photo courtesy IPPA)

This week’s farm and rural news roundup is led by reaction from Illinois on the announced 25 percent tariff imposed on U.S. farm products by the Chinese government — how bad could it get for Illinois agriculture? Also included: will soybeans be planted in time to take advantage of early season planting benefits? We are all waiting for the weather to improve. Meanwhile, a new Illinois hog barn open house celebrated future transition … please read on for more information.

Hurt: China tariff dashes outlook for pork

URBANA — What was predicted to be a year of modest gains for pork producers — finally — has devolved into a probable scenario of financial losses due to the unacknowledged trade war the United States government has started with China. This is according to Purdue University agricultural economist and other experts, who predict higher costs and lost exports due to the announced tariff on U.S. pork will quash producer profits in 2018 and beyond. The higher costs will be apparent in feed, diesel fuel and interest rates on the rise — along with higher prices for steel and aluminum important to buildings and equipment used in pork production.

The tariff announced by the Chinese on April 2 appears to be a good strategic decision for them, Hurt said in an essay published the following day by the University of Illinois College of ACES. Because China actually produces 97 percent of its own pork, the 1 percent purchased from U.S. producers could easily be replaced by EU or Canadian imports, he explained.

“If China buys no U.S. pork, it only has small implications for them. While China seems to have chosen well by selecting pork for these tariffs, the negative implications are deeper for the U.S. pork industry. The view looks different from the Midwest pork center,” said Hurt, who projects that losing the 525 million pounds of pork sold to China last year will lower U.S. prices by about 4.4 percent, $2.20 per live hundredweight, or about $6 per head. “The 25 percent tariff will make our pork higher priced in China allowing pork from the EU and Canada to be cheaper than U.S. origin. We can anticipate losing most of the export business with China.”

Full ISA statement of Chinese tariff

BLOOMINGTON — Of course, arguably no one in the Corn Belt will lose out more than the soybean grower as a result of the trade war with China. The following is the full statement issued by the Illinois Soybean Association regarding the announced China tariffs:

“Illinois soybeans are a powerful commodity driving powerful commerce with a footprint covering roughly a quarter of the state. Unfortunately, a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans into China may have a significantly negative impact on soybean farmers in Illinois.

“The ISA conducted research with Informa Economics IEG that shows that raising and crushing soybeans and closely related industries provide $28.3 billion in sales and 114,500 jobs to Illinois. While soybeans are raised in Illinois, they are crushed, processed and put to work around the world. The Chinese market is very valuable to us, as they purchase about 25 percent of our soybeans. That represents an estimated value of $1.75 billion in soybean exports from Illinois.

“We are anxious for a positive outcome with our trade discussions with China to ensure the more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois are able to continue to efficiently and profitably grow this important crop.”

Illinois Farm Fact:

15 of 31 days in March 2018 were lost to farmers due to rain, thunderstorms, sleet or snow in Champaign County. (Illinois Water Survey)

‘Ag barometer’ plunging

VINCENNES, Ind.. — Even before the announced 25 percent China import tariff on U.S. farm products was announced, uncertainty about trade relations sent the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer plunging five points from February to March. (Farmweek)

April Fool’s storm meant joke’s on farmers

URBANA — The “April Fool’s” snow storm that stretched across the central U.S. punctuated a long, miserable winter and early spring in Illinois and elsewhere, observed Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist. “Some areas saw three to six inches of snow or more,” Angel said. “The highest total I saw was Augusta, Ill. (Hancock County) with 9.0 inches.”
In addition, the average temperature for the first five days of April was 34.6 degrees in Illinois, more than 13 degrees below normal and more than five degrees cooler than the first five days of March 2018. “It has been the same all throughout the state. We are all in the same boat — no pun intended, but it is wet,” said Kris Ehler, an agronomist and certified crop adviser in Champaign County who is a big proponent of early soybean planting to increase yields. “Carbondale is at least 20 degrees cooler than it should be (on April 5).”

Ehler has test-plotted early planted soybeans for several years, but has only been able to plant one stand so far in 2018 due to prolonged wet and cold weather. He is concerned that growers might miss out on an additional 10 bushels yield or so per acre due to the delay. But Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau, feels there is still plenty of time for growers to produce high-yielding soybeans.

“(The weather) hasn’t affected soybean growers yet in Peoria County. It’s still early. If nothing is planted in three weeks, farmers may start to get more nervous,” Kirchhofer said last week.

Dunkirks build barn with eyes on future

FARMERSVILLE — Past Illinois Pork Producers Association president and current director Dereke Dunkirk and family recently celebrated the opening of a new 4,800 pig barn, inviting the local community to the barn for an open house and meal to celebrate the addition to their farm. “We are excited about the opportunity to expand our farm by incorporating more pigs, in hopes of providing room for the next generation to come back to the family farm,” said Dunkirk, who has three children representing the fifth generation in the family farm with his wife, Chelsea.

New technology in the barn includes automatic fans and ventilation, 24/7 access to feed and water and a controlled environment to ensure safe living conditions for the pigs, according to an IPPA news release.


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: China tariff, AG barometer and more–