… Which Supports One Out of Every Eight Jobs in Ohio
By Tenah McMahan
What if I told you that our state’s biggest industry was under attack? This industry — which represents one out of every eight jobs in Ohio — is struggling, and the president’s policies are making it harder for the industry to turn a profit.
I’m not talking about the auto industry — although I’m plenty worried about the local Honda plant in Marysville shutting down its second shift.
“It is Ohio’s №1 industry,” adds Chris Henney, president and CEO of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA). “One in eight jobs in Ohio are related to food and agriculture.”
Union County, where I’m from, is home to nearly 1,000 farms. With my husband and son, I work on our family’s farm, where we grow soybeans on 450 acres. More than 400 farms in Union County grow almost 6 million bushels of soybeans.
For a soybean farmer, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet, and the trade war that Donald Trump is waging with China is a big reason why.
David Ortega, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, said retaliatory tariffs placed by China are hurting U.S. farmers.
In July 2017, China levied a 25% tariff on soybeans imported from the U.S. in retaliation for the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), China was the second-largest agricultural export market for the U.S. in 2017.
Statistics from USDA shows that U.S. soybean exports for January through October 2018 were 63% lower than during that time period in 2017.
Soybean prices have plummeted as exports to China have crashed. Here’s an Ohio farmer — a Republican and Trump voter, at that — talking about how the trade war is affecting his bottom line:
According to Trump, “Trade wars are good and easy to win.”
Well from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t feel like we’re winning in Union County, and it doesn’t feel like winning for farmers across the Midwest. Farm bankruptcies are soaring.
It isn’t just soybean farmers who are hurting. Family-owned dairy farms in Ohio are struggling to get by, too.
The demise of local dairy farms is part of a trend both nationally and in Ohio. According to the Ohio State Extension, there were 2,312 licensed dairy farms in the state in 2017. In January of 2019, that number dropped to 2,045. Statistics from this month show there are 1,994 farms remaining.
Nationally, 2,731 dairy farms have stopped operating over the past year, a decline of nearly seven percent.
The Trump shutdown lasted for 35 days, and even though it’s finally over, it’s still impacting farmers. The farm bill has a new program for dairy farmers, but we can’t sign up because the shutdown has delayed implementation until the summer.
Dairy farmers need those payments now, not a few months from now. Trump seems oblivious to how his political games have a real-world impact on the American people.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just our story. The numbers show us that the Trump administration has been a disaster for the farm industry. Income for American farmers has dropped by $11.8 billion. That doesn’t just hurt the agricultural industry. It hurts all of rural America, as farm owners cut back on spending in their communities.
Looking for another sign that farmers are having a hard time? Purchases of farm equipment are way down, even though Trump assured us that his tax bill would jump-start spending by farmers and manufacturers.
But the debilitating effect of Chinese tariffs will not be limited to the soybean industry and farmers at large. Industries involved in the production, harvest and transportation of agricultural products throughout Ohio and the United States will similarly suffer if concrete measures are not taken to protect American businesses.
When he was on the campaign trail, Trump promised to stop the “war on the American farmer.” He has broken that promise, and Ohio’s farm community is paying the price.