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As China Squeezes U.S Soybean Imports, Farmers Try to Find Other Ways to Make a Living

U.S. soybean farmers had long seen China as a favorite destination—for their crops. The country buys a third of the world’s soybeans, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The trade war between the two countries put an end to those days and now U.S. farmers have to figure out where to go next.

China started canceling U.S. soybean orders and added a 25% tariffs, which cut imports of U.S. soybeans by 80%. According to Iowa State University’s Agricultural Policy Review, 60% of all U.S. soybean exports, which is a quarter of the entire crop, went to China.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that U.S. soybean export prices dropped by about 20% since April 2018, even as major production rivals Brazil and Argentina have remained significantly ahead.

Even if talks can stop the trade war, at least for now, farmers are trying to diversify away from China, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Many are trying to sell their crops, used for oil and animal feed, to other regions, like other parts of Asia as well as Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“It’s far from a guarantee it will work,” U.S. Soybean Export Council chief executive Jim Sutter told the Journal.

Some farmers are trying to boost domestic sales, like growing genetically-engineered soybeans that can produce a trans-fat-free vegetable oil, or even swapping over part of their acreage for other crops, such as corn.