Farmers Concerned About Tariffs, Farm Bill and Labor Shortage

Farmers, most economists and an increasing number of business leaders are voicing concerns about, and objections to President Donald Trump’s trade conflicts with China, Canada and other countries.

And this was before he revealed this weekend plans to unveil fresh tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products entering the country. This will bring levied duties by the Trump administration to nearly half of the more than $500 billion in Chinese goods entering the U.S. each year.

Meanwhile, the administration is still trying to negotiate a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada by the end of this month. As of Sunday, negotiators said nothing had been settled and there were no plans yet to resume talks this week.

Also due by the end of the month: a new Farm Bill, which is hugely important for farmers here as well as elsewhere, and affects things such as how much Moorhead, MN-based American Crystal Sugar will get paid for its products.

For consumers, there’s increasing evidence Trump-created trade issues will increase prices paid for everything from cars and off-road vehicles (including boats), to cell phones and other electronics. One recent report on this comes from CNBC.

For farmers, there’s a triple threat facing them: tariffs, a shortage of migrant farm workers and an unfinished Farm Bill—the current bill is set to expire Sept. 30

A group of southwestern Minnesota farmers recently went to Washington to talk with senators about these concerns, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Congress is working on the new farm bill, as well as proposed legislation that would reform the existing ag guest-worker program by allowing it to address both seasonal and year-round labor needs. But some western ag leaders oppose portions of it, so it remains to be seen if it will be completed this year.

Meanwhile, there’s more economic pain ahead for farmers, according to Agweek. Crop prices are so low, and profits so hard to come by, that some farmers will struggle to secure financing for the 2019 crop season. The three types of farmers most at risk:

  • Young farmers who got started after the 2008-2012 ag boom.
  • Farmers victimized by multiple years of bad weather.
  • Farmers who expanded ambitiously in recent years.