Cotton growers plan to expand their plantings by a sharp 3 percent this spring, taking away land from soybeans, the most prominent casualty of the Sino-U.S. trade war, said the National Cotton Council over the weekend. Meanwhile, the USDA said the soybean stockpile will double in size by the time this year's crop is ready to harvest, creating the largest "carryover" ever.
Persistently low commodity prices are pushing some farmers to the financial edge, said the chairmen of the Senate and House Agriculture committees on Thursday. "We are in a very tough spot," said Senate Ag chairman Pat Roberts. The House Ag chairman, Collin Peterson, said "we are not in crisis yet" but said that continued sour conditions would sap the finances of a growing number of farmers.
With Trump tariff payments boosting Corn Belt farm revenue, farmer confidence shot to its highest level since last June, just before the trade war began against China, said the monthly Ag Economy Barometer published by Purdue University. Producers polled by Purdue said they expect ag exports to increase in the years ahead, an indirect sign they expect a beneficial resolution with China.
For the third day in a row, the USDA confirmed a large sale of U.S. soybeans to China, this time 586,000 tonnes. With the purchase, reported by private exporters on Wednesday, China bought 3.8 million tonnes of soybeans in three days and is well on its way to the 5 million tonnes promised during a White House meeting last week.
Two outspoken Kansans scored the trade war with China as needlessly disruptive for the farm sector on Tuesday, with Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts comparing it to the five-week partial government shutdown and economist Barry Flinchbaugh urging Congress to curtail President Trump's power to impose tariffs in the name of national security. In a pause in the trade war, China bought 2.6 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans, the third-largest soy sale in USDA records.
The USDA confirmed on Monday the sale of 612,000 tonnes (2.25 million bushels) of U.S. soybeans to China, a small part of the 5 million tonnes promised to President Trump last week and much less than traders suggested over the weekend. China used to be the largest customer in the world for U.S. soybeans but retaliatory tariffs have reduced sales to one-eighth of their usual pace.
The tenor of Sino-U.S. negotiations is heartening but "we're still a long way" from resolving trade war between the world's two largest economies, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at a cattle industry conference. Meanwhile, China was following through on a pledge, announced at the White House, to buy U.S. soybeans, with some trade sources putting the purchases as high as 4 million tonnes, worth $1.35 billion.
In a letter read aloud at the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing will buy more U.S. farm exports, a decision that President Trump hailed on Thursday as a sign of good faith in ongoing negotiations to end the trade war between the nations.
In a speech to the largest U.S. farm group, President Trump asked American farmers on Monday to take his side on the partial government shutdown over a border wall and said that with a secure border, "I'm going to make it easier" for farmworkers to enter the country. "Because we want to take people in to help our farmers, et cetera. Very important," he said.