Farming: the original growth business

Andy Alford checks the seed planting depth as he seeds a crop with soybeans in 2015 in Edmonson County.

American farmers are once again caught in the crosshairs of a trade war between the U.S. and China.

Last week, China said its state-owned enterprises would essentially suspend imports of U.S. agricultural goods. That came four days after the Trump administration announced it would institute a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in goods from China starting Sept. 1, according to The Associated Press.

Though some experts have described these latest developments as devastating for farmers, some Kentucky agricultural leaders remain positive.

“Kentucky agriculture is dependent on world trade,” state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “What we want is a fair deal.”

In 2017, Kentucky exported the equivalent of nearly $126 million of agricultural products to China. That dropped to about $115 million in 2018. From January through May this year, Kentucky exported about $33 million, which was about $25 million less than during the same period last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

China imported $19.5 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products in 2017 and $9.1 billion last year. China, Canada and Mexico have been the three largest export destinations for U.S. farm commodities in the past decade, the USDA said.

China primarily imports soybeans, hay, dairy, poultry, processed food, pork, beef and wheat from the U.S. China also imports about 20 horses per month from Kentucky, according to Quarles.

Andy Alford, a soybean farmer in Edmonson County and a member of the Kentucky Soybeans Board, grew up on a family farm and has been farming full-time for the past decade.

Weather conditions can affect farming, but this latest battle in the trade war has been the largest economic challenge, he said.

“We’ve been dealing with this tariff crisis for a year or so now,” Alford said. “China is one of the (top) importers of soybeans in Kentucky. With China essentially not buying any ag products, it could put continued stress on the market.”

Alford hauls most of his soybeans to an Owensboro-based processor, which then exports the products overseas.

In addition to sending products to China, Kentucky exports heavily to Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Japan. Farmers and processors have had to turn to other countries this past year.

Quarles suggested he was confident Kentucky farmers would remain resistant to the challenges – as did Alford.

“It’s tough, but I feel confident we’ll survive it,” Alford said. But he said he’s hoping it will get resolved sooner rather than later.

– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggers dailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.

– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggersdailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

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