Chinese tariffs could hit Tennessee farmers hard

Apr 11, 2018

MARTIN, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  One of Tennessee’s foremost agricultural experts says the state’s farmers are deeply worried by the trade war President Trump has precipitated with China.

Credit WMOT

Dr. Todd Winters is the Dean of Agriculture for the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Dr. Winters says soybean farmers in West Tennessee are especially concerned about the trade impasse. He says farms in that region can range up to 10,000 acres and soybeans are big business.

“About one out of three rows of soybeans that are produced here in West Tennessee actually go to China, and if you look at the total U.S. exports soybeans make up about 60 percent of that which is almost $14 billion in U.S. soybeans going to China every year.”

American farmers voted heavily for President Trump in 2016. Dr. Winter says farmers were pleased when Trump’s new EPA administrator began rolling back environmental regulations. They’re also pleased with the tax code changes the president recently signed into law.

But Dr. Winters says there’s a limit to their patience.

“Farmers are used to going through rough times, so I think they’re willing to stay with him for a little bit longer, but definitely there’s more and more concern all the time.”

Dean Winters says soybean farmers could switch to growing corn instead, and sell the crop as feed to livestock producers, or to fuel producers for conversion to ethanol. But he says both of those products are also on China’s list of possible tariff targets.