Farms and businesses affected by U.S. trade

STATE COLLEGE–Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Farmers for Free Trade and other agricultural stakeholders say strong trade agreements are critical to the economic viability of farm families and companies that do business with farmers in Pennsylvania. During a news conference on the grounds of Penn State University’s Ag Progress Days, several speakers talked about how farmers, businesses and the state’s economy are being adversely affected by escalating trade tensions between the United States and some of its trading partners.

“Pennsylvania farmers strongly support free trade agreements that make our food products available to countries around the world. With tight profit margins in farming, exports can make the difference between whether a farm business is profitable or not,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “Selling American goods and services internationally also creates and maintains good jobs throughout the agriculture industry.”

The tension between the U.S. and other countries has affected the price farmers are receiving for the food they produce. For example, soybean prices have fallen by about $2 a bushel and lean hogs have lost a quarter of their value, while China alone has reduced its purchase of pork products from the U.S. by more than $2.2 billion.

“Without question, our pork industry has benefited from free trade. As a result, we have stronger farms that play a valuable role in contributing to local, state and national economies,” said Juniata County hog and chicken farmer Chris Hoffman. “And, even if it’s not my cut of pork being exported, healthy export markets keep surplus products down, positively influencing prices for all pork producers.”

Farm Bureau notes that Pennsylvania dairy farmers, who have been struggling with low milk prices over the past four years, are also being hurt by the trade dispute.

“We were just starting to see some much-needed price improvement before the trade war erupted and, for dairy farmers, the timing could not have been worse,” said Berks County dairy farmer Paul Hartman. “As a result, dairy prices have fallen about 10 percent since the first few months of this year.”

Many companies that do business with farmers are also feeling the sting of the trade maneuvers, including tractor and harvesting equipment producer New Holland Agriculture.

“Over 30 percent of our New Holland plant’s output and over 36 percent of all CNH Industrial (New Holland’s corporate parent company) produced products are exported annually. This significant volume makes our companies active participants in free trade discussions,” said Dan Valen, director of product marketing for New Holland North America.

In addition, FFT says farmers count on a global trading system that drive sales of our world class agricultural products and provides a reliable way to do business with key trading partners.

“Farmers for Free Trade is proud to join the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to discuss the importance of trade to Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Angela Hofmann, deputy director of Farmers for Free Trade. “Many of Pennsylvania’s farmers and agricultural workers are already paying the price of the trade war, and we hope our conversation will help highlight the need for consistent and fair trade policies.”

PFB says trade representatives in Washington D.C. should be working to solidify existing trade agreements and pursue new trade agreements and market opportunities so U.S. agriculture isn’t left behind.

“Our successful trade story is at risk as American farmers appear to be caught in the crossfire of retaliatory tariffs. We are concerned that a prolonged dispute could lead to lost markets, excess inventories and reduced earnings for farm families,” added Ebert. “Farmers are ready and able to make their products available to the world. Our success as an industry depends on our ability to export our products.”