Ed Beaman

Ed Beaman

U.S. Soybean Export Council

DES MOINES — It’s difficult to discuss the farm economy without talking about trade, especially in a time of multiple trade wars.

Two different trade experts met with farmers during the June 28 economic summit hosted by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. Both said the current trade wars have presented farmers with unique problems.

“These tariff situations have impacted us,” said John Hinners, vice president for industry relations at the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver.

Calling the present situation with China “troubling” Hinners said his organization is not political. Because of that, it has tried to respond by spending time and money cultivating other potential markets for U.S. meat products.

Some market share has been lost in Mexico, but that country remains the top market for red meat exports. South Korea and Japan are also strong markets. Because of African swine fever, China would appear to offer a huge market opportunity if the trade war could be ended, Hinners said.

Ed Beaman, senior director of basic market development with the U.S. Soybean Export Council, echoed the point Hinners made about exploring new markets. The possibilities for those markets are exciting, but opening new markets takes time, he said.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to ship soybeans to China, but at a much lower rate than before the trade war. Before the tariff talk started in spring 2018, the U.S. shipped about 36 million metric tons per year. This year that total will likely be closer to 10 million metric tons.

And even if the trade war were to end soon, the U.S. share of the market in China may be permanently reduced.

Still, Beaman was upbeat, wearing a green cap that said “Keep U.S. Soy Exports Great.”

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.