Farmers Watch Their Crops Rot As Trump’s Tariffs Take Their Toll

United Soybean Board/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

With grain elevators filled to capacity and virtually no orders from China, some farmers are watching their crops rot.

American soybean farmers continue feeling the heat from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, as storage elevators fill up with grain that can’t be sold or in some cases even worse: watching the crops rot in the fields.

According to Reuters, farmers whose crops were damaged by bad weather and a wet harvest have had little choice but to plow under their fields.

> For Louisiana farmer Richard Fontenot and his neighbors, the solution was a costly one: Let the crops rot.

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> Fontenot plowed under 1,000 of his 1,700 soybean acres this fall, chopping plants into the dirt instead of harvesting more than $300,000 worth of beans.

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> His beans were damaged by bad weather, made worse by a wet harvest. Normally, he could sell them anyway to a local elevator – giant silos usually run by international grains merchants that store grain.

But those grain silos are already filled with beans that have nowhere to go, meaning they have less room to store damaged crops.

> “No one wants them,” Fontenot said in a telephone interview. As he spoke, he drove his tractor across a soybean field, tilling under his crop. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Fontenot is far from alone: Reuters reported that “grain farmers are plowing under crops, leaving them to rot or piling them on the ground, in hopes of better prices next year, according to interviews with more than two dozen farmers, academic researchers and farm lenders.”

> In Louisiana, up to 15 percent of the oilseed crop is being plowed under or is too damaged to market, according to data analyzed by Louisiana State University staff. Crops are going to waste in parts of Mississippi and Arkansas. Grain piles, dusted by snow, sit on the ground in North and South Dakota. And in Illinois and Indiana, some farmers are struggling to protect silo bags stuffed with crops from animals.

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> U.S. farmers planted 89.1 million acres of soybeans this year, the second most ever, expecting China’s rising demand to give them better returns than other bulk crops.

But then came the escalation of Trump’s trade war, which saw China put a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans, in response to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

The result? Soybean exports to China have all but disappeared, meaning U.S. farmers have lost their largest market — and the $12 billion in soybean exports that went along with it.

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