As lawmakers become more vocal in criticizing Trump tariff payments, U.S. farm groups increasingly are quiet on trade issues. The reasons range from weariness to uncertainty over what's to come, whether it's the Sino-U.S. trade war, congressional approval of the USMCA with Canada and Mexico, or implementation of new ag trade rules with Japan, say analysts and farm group officials.
For years, the United States was the indisputable global leader for agricultural exports, partly because it had a comparative advantage in farm production. But the U.S. advantage in pork, beef, corn and soybeans is waning, say two university economists, who conclude "this may have been the worst time to enter into a trade war."
Senate Finance chairman Chuck Grassley conceded one point this week: Steel and aluminum will be excluded from any reform of presidential power to impose tariffs based on national security interests. Even so, there is no agreement among senators on how Congress should reassert its authority over international trade.
Although farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly believe they will emerge as winners from the Sino-U.S. trade war, they also expect the Trump administration will send them billions of dollars in trade-war payments on 2020 crops yet to be planted, according to a Purdue University poll released Tuesday.
An accord expected to boost U.S. farm exports to Japan may not be complete in time for signature by President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week. The so-called mini-deal would cover agriculture and digital trade but is being held up by Tokyo's request that the United States promise not to impose tariffs on cars imported from Japan.
With USDA sending $1 billion a week to farmers, senior Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee argued on Monday for Congress to give USDA an early infusion of cash to keep trade-war payments flowing to farm country. The House is scheduled to vote this week on a short-term government funding bill that may include money for aid to agriculture, the only sector of the U.S. economy to get a trade-war bailout.
Eleven months after initiating negotiations, President Trump notified Congress on Monday that he intends to sign a trade agreement with Japan in the coming weeks. The agreement is expected to put U.S. farmers on equal footing in trade with Japan in competition with the "TPP-11" trade bloc and the EU.
Private exporters reported their second major sale of U.S. soybeans to China as the two nations prepare for working-level meetings to resolve their trade war, said the USDA on Monday. Mid-level negotiators are expected to meet on Friday, ahead of ministerial discussions in early October.
After a weekend in which Trump lashed out angrily at China, calling its leader "an enemy," Trump was making nice again at the end of the G7 meeting on Monday, praising Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "great man" and saying prospects for a trade deal looked brighter. Soybean prices rose on the news.
The United States might cancel trade talks with China scheduled for early September, said President Trump as he left Washington for the weekend. "We're not ready to make a deal, but we'll see what happens," said the president. "We’ll see whether or not we keep our meeting in September. If we do, that’s fine. If we don’t, that’s fine."