America’s farmers and agricultural economy benefit greatly from trade. Our nation enjoys a positive agricultural trade balance. Last year, we exported $140 billion in farm products (nearly $3B from Virginia alone) meaning we exported $21 billion more than we bought from other nations. Unfortunately, our track record of success made agriculture a target for retaliatory tariffs from foreign nations after President Trump lowered the boom on those nations for their unfair trade practices.
These back-and-forth tariffs could not have come at a worse time for U.S. agriculture. Farmers were already facing economic peril before this trade war hit. Net farm income was down more than 50 percent, debt levels were rising, and now, with the market impact of these foreign tariffs, prices for our farm products have tanked even further.
Recognizing that farmers were the biggest bullseye for these foreign tariffs, the USDA recently announced a trade assistance package. The assistance will provide a measure of relief, but this is merely a temporary bandage. It will give the Administration more time to negotiate an end to the trade war—but the clock is still ticking
We need trade, not tariffs. Negotiations can be difficult and take a long time, but tariffs are not the answer. They’re not easy to ratchet back, and they often send the message that countries are not open for business. Especially now as we enter the harvest season, stockpiles of unsold ag products continue to grow, so will the damage to the farm families who feed our nation. We need a win in the trade arena, and we need it now.
During this year’s summer congressional work period (commonly known as August recess) it is critical that you engage with your Congressional representatives and elected officials by calling on them to get more involved in the nation’s direction on trade matters.
American Farm Bureau has put together a resource page with background information on trade tariffs, guides to contacting members of Congress, sample social media posts, and more. You can also click here to sign AFBF’s petition to support fair trade for agriculture.
We must start that effort as soon as possible. Unless we end this trade war soon, American agriculture will lose our place as a leader in the global marketplace.