ILLINOIS — Illinois farmers are hoping tensions between the U.S. and its trade partners dissipate after record-yielding harvests in 2018.
Illinois produced the most soybeans of any state in the country while ranking second in corn production, The State Journal-Register reported.
But farmers have been significantly affected by President Donald Trump’s tougher stance on trade and retaliatory tariffs from China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and other key trade partners.
“Now, unfortunately, we find out very quickly how reliant we’ve become on being able to move our products internationally,” said Mark Gebhards, executive director of governmental affairs and commodities for Illinois Farm Bureau. “And it was a heck of a hit for us this past year.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that $6.7 billion of Illinois exports are threatened by the emerging trade war.
In 2017, China accounted for 25 percent of the state’s agricultural exports, including $1.75 billion in soybeans and more than $500 million in corn. When China wasn’t buying this year, many farmers had to store excess crops for winter and hope the tariff situation is resolved.
Illinois is the largest exporting state in the Midwest and the fifth-largest exporting state in the United States. Illinois Farm Bureau statistics show that the state’s farmers export 40 percent of their corn, 34 percent of their pork and 6 percent of their soybeans to NAFTA countries.
Garry Niemeyer, who produces corn and soybeans on his farm just outside of Auburn, said one-time aid the U.S. government gave farmers affected by tariffs was helpful. But he still wants to see a long-term solution.
“Our problem is that less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States,” Niemeyer said. “So for us to be competitive from here on out, we need to do it with exports.”