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Louisiana soybean farmers absorbing double punch from rain, tariffs

December 3, 2018
In The News

In a normal year, John Good can easily handle a rainy harvest season for his 1,300 acres of soybeans in Pointe Coupee Parish.

He would simply haul his harvested crop to a nearby grain elevator, which would buy the beans at a discount if they were more damaged than normal from rain. That elevator would sell the soybeans to an export elevator on the Mississippi River like Louis Dreyfus, which would find an overseas buyer, usually in China.

China is by far the largest market for U.S. — and Louisiana — soybeans. This year, China has dramatically reduced its imports since tacking a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans in retaliation to the Trump administration's tariffs against Chinese products. A truce, worked out between the U.S. and China over the weekend at the G-20 summit in Argentina, puts in place a 90-day cease on expanding or implementing any new tariffs but has no effect on tariffs in place that already have affected soybean farmers. 

But that’s not helping many of the Louisiana farmers who are plowing under crops too damaged by weather and were trying to sell their crop in a glutted market that was limiting purchases to a better quality of beans than normal. The tariff-related law allows for aid to be sent only to producers with “harvested” acres. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, has written a bill that would change that, allowing “planted acres” to qualify for the Market Facilitation Program to help farmers who are having to plow under or leave crops unharvested.

“We were at capacity with nowhere to send the product,” Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said. “Without those major buyers, we had significant damage to the beans, and we did not have enough of high-quality beans (to sell).”

Even if Abraham’s bill passes, Strain warns that farmers won’t be made whole, even if they have crop insurance.

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