Clermont County soybean farmer reacts to possible trade war with China

A pending trade war with China could impact Ohio's biggest cash crop and the people who grow it. (WKRC)

CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WKRC) - A pending trade war with China could impact Ohio's biggest cash crop and the people who grow it.

China says it will impose tariffs on American soybeans, making them less attractive to Chinese buyers. This is in retaliation for President Donald Trump's plan to raise import fees on some Chinese products.

One soybean farmer in Clermont County says a trade fight could end up being a good thing, however.

The land is too wet right now at Eric Wolfer's farm, and it's too cold outside to plant, so Wolfer is getting the machinery ready to put in seed for 85,000 bushels of soybeans.

"All the land we're going to plant soybeans, it'll take us about 30, 35 days for beans," Wolfer said. "People don't realize the technology we use today is way amazing."

According to the Ohio Soybean Association, soybeans are Ohio's largest crop and number one agricultural export: $1.8 billion worth sent overseas in 2017. Sixty percent of Wolfer's output is exported, either to China or somewhere outside the United States.

"Like when my grandpa farmed, he shopped everything locally, bought everything locally and he didn't have to worry about the world market at the time," Wolfer said.

Farming is expensive. One tractor tire costs $3,200, and the tractor itself is $400,000. If China raises tariffs on American soybeans by 25 percent, that will mean fewer exports and less income for farmers like Wolfer.

Wolfer voted for Trump, and despite the possibility of less money from soybeans, Wolfer says the trade fight could eventually lead to cheaper business expenses.

"I mean, it's a little bit scary for a few years, but, in the long run, I think it'll be balanced trade, which is what we really need. So we have to balance trade -- gets us where we get cheaper equipment, parts, chemicals; we're just as well off as having the extra money on the income side," he said.

The soybean market is kind of like the stock market. It rises and falls based on rumors, facts and emotion. Wednesday, prices dropped 5 percent when China floated the tariff option. It edged back up Thursday. Either way, Wolfer says he's in this to stay.

"It's just great to know we can plant something every year and be providing for the rest of the world," he said.

Several major business and agricultural organizations in this country are trying to get Trump and the Chinese leaders to back off the tariff threats and negotiate a trade agreement.

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