China and the United States (US) are officially in a trade war. As of last Friday, US cargo ships were racing to Chinese ports in last-ditch attempts to avoid tariffs. Now, $34 billion of each country’s goods face new fees at their intended destinations. While most US tariffs target Chinese metals, machinery, and manufacturing equipment, Chinese tariffs are mainly applied to US agricultural products. Most troubling for US farmers, China has followed through on its plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on US soybean shipments. Soybeans are the US’ single largest agricultural export, and China is their largest destination.
The news has clearly unnerved the US food and agriculture industry. As officials from Cargill have stated, “A trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies will lead to serious consequences for economic growth, including the loss of sales and jobs here at home.” Decades of automation and consolidation have already reduced the number of US farm workers to its lowest point in modern history, and as revenues get further squeezed by such tariffs, that trend is even more likely to continue.
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