Trump’s trade war with China hurts Black farmers

Herb Boyd | 5/16/2019, 4:52 p.m.
Trump, the sheriff of tariff, has delivered a devastating blow to America’s consumers, and most specifically to farmers with his ...
The BFAA’s fight for nearly a decade has been to have the money already set aside to pay the additional class-action claims be actually paid to farmers and their heirs. Some have passed away over the past decade, waiting for redress. Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA

Trump, the sheriff of tariff, has delivered a devastating blow to America’s consumers, and most specifically to farmers with his standoff in the US-China trade war. Two interviews with John Wesley Boyd, president and founder of the National Black Farmers Association, illustrate the impact of the tariff on farmers. Boyd, (and though I have a son, John Boyd, there is no discernible relationship), spoke with CNN Monday afternoon and with Michel Martin of NPR last Saturday.

During the CNN interview Boyd, from Baskerville, Virginia, said that the price of soybeans had fallen from $16 a bushel to $8 a bushel. “This makes it very difficult for us to survive if this downward spiral continues,” he said. Moreover, as he told Martin, “It’s difficult for farmers to actually borrow money for farm operating loans. If you try to tell a banker that the going rate is $8 a bushel and you really don’t see any relief in sight, it makes it difficult for farmers like myself to borrow…and to make plans.”

Last summer, the Trump administration promised there would be a $12 billion bailout program for farmers hurt by the trade war.

Boyd said he hasn’t seen a dime of that money. “And I’ve been calling and calling the United States Department of Agriculture and they say the funds are in process, and the funds are going to be sent to me.”

Martin asked Boyd how he and the other small farmers are going to make ends meet in the midst of this trade war.

“Well, right now,” he said, “I’m taking a huge risk by planting soybeans because, like I said, I don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be. But this year, I am changing a little bit. And I’m taking a chance on planting some hemp. And I’m working with the Virginia agriculture secretary on getting a license to plant hemp. So I’m going to take a chance and plant 100 acres of hemp. I’ve never grown any before. But it’s legal, and I think myself and other farmers may see it as an out or a new income for our farming operations.”

Asked if hemp is the answer, Boyd said: “I think hemp is certainly an opportunity for small-scale farmers like myself. And I see the future of agriculture in trouble on the major commodities such as corn, wheat and soybeans because these prices are too low for farmers to stay in business.”

(In a follow-up story next week we will examine the extent to which soy futures are impacted by the trade war, and if the Chinese government is purchasing soy and selling it to businesses in order for them to avoid the increased tariff costs.)

Meanwhile, Boyd is not alone in his distress and announcements. Even Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has contradicted him, citing that American consumers would bear the burden from the rising trade war with China. In other words, Trump’s suggestion that China pays the tariffs is nothing more than his lying and lack of understanding of how the tariffs work.

Trying not to heap all the blame on his boss, Kudlow said, “Both sides will pay.”

When pushed on this argument, Kudlow agreed that China does not pay on goods coming into the country. “But the Chinese will suffer GDP losses and so forth with respect to a diminishing export market and goods that they may need for their own.”

So the spin continues, and caught in the maelstrom are the nation’s consumers as well as small and African-American farmers, who are still waiting for the bailout checks.