American farmers may benefit doubly during efforts to end the Sino-U.S. trade war, suggested President Trump over the weekend. They will get billions of dollars in payments intended to mitigate the impact of the trade war on the agricultural sector, and China will buy "a tremendous amount" of U.S. food and ag exports while bilateral negotiations are ongoing.
Without providing details, President Trump said on social media over the weekend that Mexico, the largest U.S. food and ag trade partner, would "immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers." Purchases were not mentioned in a joint declaration by the North American neighbors to avert temporarily Trump's threat to impose tariffs on all imports from Mexico unless it acted to restrict crossings at the southern U.S. border.
The Trump administration says its policy of confrontation with trading partners, such as the trade war with China and tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, will lead to more advantageous relations for the United States. But Bill Reinsch, of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Relations, says the promise of "short-term pain, long-term gain" is unlikely to come true.
President Trump put his weight behind an announcement that China, amid negotiations to end the trade war, committed to buy 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans. The decision, announced on social media by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday, would more than double Chinese purchases this marketing year but still
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.
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.
The Sino-U.S. trade war, which as stymied U.S. farm exports, "is going to be a long one, and we keep delivering the message, 'We're with you, Mr. President,'" said the leader of the largest U.S. farm group on Sunday, adding a caveat. "The runaway of our patience is going to be determined by the financial situation of our farms. We went into the battle very weak." (No paywall)
Federal meat inspectors would report to work as usual and the SNAP and WIC programs would stay in operation if there is a partial government shutdown at the end of this week, according to a USDA plan developed for the brief shutdown early this year. Offices running the farm program would be closed, which probably would mean that Trump tariff payments would be delayed until the government opened again.
The U.S. share of the Chinese soybean market shrank during the marketing year that ended Aug. 31 and, with the trade war underway, shipments are anemic in the new sales year, says the USDA: "A large pullback in Chinese demand for U.S. soybeans appears likely to continue well into 2918/19."