Some central Illinois farmers support the Trump administration’s $12 billion plan to ease the pain caused by the president’s trade dispute with China and other countries. But they say it’s no cure for a proper deal.

Jason Sigrist of rural Farina said he planted 90 percent soybeans this year, banking on the higher price against corn. His crop has been sold, but he’s concerned about how prices will act as the disputes continue.

He noted beans have fallen about $2 a bushel. He blames the trade dispute.

“It looks to me like it’s just a Band-Aid,” he said of the relief plan announced on Tuesday.

That’s about how Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue described it when he announced the plan, calling it a temporary fix for the current disruption.

Sigrist said “trying to stop the bleeding” will help, if the U.S. and its trading partners can resolve their dispute. For that to happen, Sigrist said China and the United States need to get together.

“They’ll come to some agreement with what their products are worth,” he said. This should restore some stability to the market, he said, but added it’s dependent on if an agreement happens.

He said most of his soybeans are sold through St. Louis, and he’s not sure where they’ll wind up. But with the new tariffs, he doubts China will be a major buyer.

He has major changes planned. Right now, he’s considering splitting his planting evenly between corn and soybeans, something he hasn’t done for years.

Kent Probst, of Wheeler, has also been eyeing an unstable market. He planted about 70 percent soybeans and 30 percent corn this year, which is slightly more soybeans than usual.

The payments to producers will be helpful for him, he said. But that is an uncertainty of its own.

He supports the administration’s goals, despite the damage it might do in the short-term to his operation.

“I believe we need to have tariffs and do something about the unfair trade balances,” Probst said.

This year is likely to be even tougher, he said, as farmers are expecting large harvests, which will drive prices down. The immediate hit to Sigrist, Probst and others is likely to be stiff.

“I think it’s fair to say soybeans are likely the largest sector affected, and as we planned out the Market Facilitation Program are likely to have the majority of the resources to help offset those damages,” Brad Karmen, assistant deputy administrator for farm programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

China bought about $12.3 billion in American soybeans last year, triple the amount in 2005, according to USDA data.

It’s unclear how much money producers stand to gain from the relief program. Officials said they would calculate the direct payments based on how much is actually produced. The formula would be the amount of production multiplied by whatever rate the federal government sets, said Karmen.

Farmers groups have responded to the declaration.

“We appreciate the administration’s recognition of the damage these retaliatory tariffs have caused for Illinois farmers – and farmers across the nation. However, while we are grateful for the support from the administration, we must stress that this aid package will not make farmers whole in the face of continued trade tensions,” Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. said in a statement.

“The economic and marketing damage caused by these tariffs will continue as long as they’re in effect, and likely far longer. That’s why we urge the president and the administration to continue to negotiate trade deals with our global partners, including Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union, and get back to the table with China, to work on resolving unfair trade practices that are the underlying issue.”

Although pork was mentioned several times during the announcement, the effect on producers is unclear, said Jenny Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Pork Producers organization

Without a fixed harvest time, like row crops, it’s hard to know how much producers are likely to see, she said in an interview.

The National Pork Producers Council has been critical of the tariffs.

“America’s pig farmers and their families are patriots who are demonstrating enormous commitment to the greater good of our country as they shoulder a disproportionate share of trade retaliation against the United States. We need these trade disputes to end,” the council’s Jim Heimerl said in a statement.

The NPPC maintains that the continued fight will drive producers out of business, as there are now punitive tariffs on 40 percent of American pork exports.

Part of the program will include purchasing unsold fruit, nuts, rice, legumes, and some pork, beef and dairy and distributing them to food pantries and other nutrition sources, officials said.

Catholic Charities would be able to distribute all of those products to its customers, said Sister Carol Beckermann, area director at Effingham Catholic Charities.

The organization has never turned away someone, but sometimes the distribution is less than they’d like, she said.

Sister Sandra Sudkamp, who runs the pantry, said they’ll work to include recipes for whatever products they get. Right now the pantry does not receive any food directly from the federal government, she noted.

Sudkamp said the wide variety of agricultural produce distributed during the summer comes from local donations.

Graham Milldrum can be reached at by e-mail or 217-347-7151 x131.

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you