I am reluctant to say that food is the new weapon, because I believe it is pretty easy, throughout history, to identify where food was used as a weapon. However, the trade war is just that. In the past week I have had excellent discussions with folks on the front lines of this war and I am here to tell you that war is the correct term.
Something has changed in China and they are not just bantering for better trade deals; they want control of our resources. That is what the stakes are in this war.
I will readily admit I have not been to China. I have dozens of friends who go regularly and they tell me that in the past three years the feeling they have while there has changed dramatically.
Whatever the change, whatever the motivation, we are in the midst of it. Factor in that this is the Chinese year of the pig in a country where the entire culture has been built around pigs we have another dilemma. We don’t honestly know how many pigs have died in the past 12 months to African Swine Fever in China but I have friends in the know who think it is approaching 300 million head. To put that into context, that is twice the total United States production in one year.
When folks want to blame President Donald Trump for the slumping farm commodity prices, let the impact of the reduced feed demand due to the number of dead hogs in China soak in. Vietnam recently indicated that roughly 1.5 million pigs have died there. My point is simply: Ag econ 101. We might want to blame someone, and politics do often get in the way of profitability, but we will never escape the laws of supply and demand.
I am fully aware of and feel the same ag economy woes that everyone else is experiencing. I know what the mental toll is for farmers who, all across corn country, are looking at the calendar that reads May 15 and admitting that they don’t have any corn planted yet. When you break down this “trade war” and look at the long-term carnage, I truly believe you will see the importance of taking a stand now.
It is worth pointing out that we tend to think we are the only ones with the target on our back. Have you talked to any of our cousins north of the border? China is strategizing the same war with Canada and the seeding by farmers this spring has been greatly altered as a result, particularly with canola. China is in the middle of a war to take food producing resources and we must win the battle.
Clearly for U.S. soybean producers, we must keep our ear to the ground on this deal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 records show that nearly three times as many dollars worth of soybeans were exported than corn which ranks second. We need to be adding value. What is the value of exporting a soybean as opposed to a food product that can be created from a soybean? What is the value to the soybean if we export it as pork or poultry? What is the improved impact to our economy if we fuller process here in our own country?
I believe the Trump administration is on the right path. I believe to cave at any level at this time will have severe impacts on American food production abilities in the long term. I also believe the educational opportunities that are coming along with this heightened discussion about the farm impact to the entire U.S. economy is historic.
I also see the dangers to the challenging political party who I hear now trying to justify giving away the intellectual property that separates us from all other countries. Folks, other nations have the resources we have but it is our knowledge and ability to convert them that they really want. Yes, this is a war; one we must win and one that is no more comfortable fighting that than previous wars we’ve been in.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.