By Ajay Kumar
Farmer Scott Halpin is facing another year of high prices for seed and fertilizer, and low prices for the corn and soybeans his family is planting on farmland outside Morris, Illinois.
“Equipment is expensive,” he told VOA while taking a break from loading seed into the John Deere planter that will eventually place them in the soil. “Land is expensive. It costs a lot of money to put a crop in the ground.”
As U.S. farmers head to their fields to plant this year’s crop, they face new challenges created by Chinese threats to impose tariffs on some of their products, a retaliatory move in the wake of pending U.S. tariffs on Chinese aluminum and steel.
It’s the latest salvo in an escalating trade dispute that has farmers warily watching fluctuating commodity prices as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects net farm income in 2018 to reach a 12-year low.
Any potential Chinese tariffs could impact the price of soybeans and ultimately Halpin’s bottom line.
“Soybeans make up just under half of our crop rotation,” Halpin said. “It’s a real important part of our farm operation here.”
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Added into the mix are new concerns that buyers in China, the world’s top consumer of soybeans, have stopped purchasing supplies from the U.S., even before tariffs are in place.
For Halpin, the bad news seems relentless.
“It can hurt when things happen on a daily basis. It’s just kind of uncertain times here in farming,” he said. (VOA)