Farmers believe they're the collateral damage in President Trump’s escalating battle with China over trade.
China’s threatened tariffs on more than 100 U.S. goods — including soybeans, corn, and cotton — are already impacting crop prices, even though they haven’t yet been implemented, and for many growers planting season is just starting.
After China made the announcement two weeks ago, soybean prices plummeted, upending farmers’ budgets for the coming year. One of them, Illinois farmer Steve Fricke, told VICE News the tariff standoff could reduce his gross income by 20 percent. He said his expenses would remain the same, so his take-home income from the small farm, typically at least $60,000 a year, could be cut by more than two-thirds.
"As we look at that field, we just know how many dollars of loss that is going to be this fall," Fricke said, pointing to the field where he'll plant his soybean crop over the next month.
It's too late to swap out soybeans for another crop — many of which are facing potential tariffs anyway.
"We still have to plant [the soybeans], but we just know we’re not gonna come out ahead," Fricke said.
Beyond a threatened trade war with China, farmers have been worried about Trump's other trade policies such as exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and renegotiating NAFTA, Fricke said.
“Agriculture sometimes is at odds with some of the economy in our country, so we knew that we were going to have to pay some price. We just don't want to pay the whole price,” he said.
But he remains a Trump supporter — for now. Fricke said he’s hoping Trump will listen to farmers and find a solution before the trade fight, and farmers’ fortunes, get worse.
"I just emailed the president and all our representatives today about, you know, let's be careful how we think about doing this, because we were already in a difficult situation in agriculture right now. We don't need it to be worse,” he said.
This segment originally aired April 9, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.