Wisconsin Soybean Farmer Reacts To Trump's Agreement With EU

Jul 26, 2018
Originally published on July 27, 2018 9:54 am
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

American soybean farmers have been caught in the crossfire of President Trump's trade war with China, but they may have gotten a reprieve yesterday when the president, along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that they are working toward a number of trade agreements.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And the European Union is going to start almost immediately to buy a lot of soybeans - they're a tremendous market - buy a lot of soybeans from our farmers in the Midwest primarily.

CORNISH: One of those Midwestern farmers is Brad Kremer of Pittsville, Wis. He's on the board of directors of the American Soybean Association. He joins me now. Welcome to the program.

BRAD KREMER: Well, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: Well, first, I want to get your reaction to the news that the EU is going to be purchasing more soybeans. What are you feeling hearing that?

KREMER: Well, I think it's wonderful. I think, as a soybean farmer from Wisconsin, or anywhere for that matter, we certainly welcome any opportunity to market our soybeans.

CORNISH: How big is your farm? Tell us a little bit about it.

KREMER: Sure. I have a couple of hundred-cow dairy. We have about a 60-cow beef herd. And we farm roughly 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat.

CORNISH: And who is your biggest buyer?

KREMER: Well, I sell mine to the local co-op, but in turn, all the beans are - in Wisconsin get exported. And China is absolutely our No. 1 customer - 1 out of every 3 rows of soybeans goes to China.

CORNISH: So 1 out of every 3 rows of soybeans goes to China. What did that mean when trade tensions were escalating this spring?

KREMER: Well, it's certainly, you know, we were certainly with a watchful eye. And, you know, with the tariffs that have just hit, we've lost $2 a bushel in the last 30 days. So our farm, we generally produce about 30,000 bushel of beans a year, somewhere in that neighborhood. So that's a legitimate hit to our bottom line of about $60,000 on our personal farm. And that's a significant blow to a mid-sized farm. And, you know, these are real numbers that are affecting family farms.

CORNISH: So what does that mean when you hear of the $12 billion in aid to farmers that the Trump administration is promising? Is that something that can make up for what you've lost in sales to China?

KREMER: You know, I don't think it's going to make it up. I certainly appreciate the president's efforts. We certainly understand and support the president calling China out on their WTO violations. I think that's well-documented how they've treated us. The timing of it is not great for agriculture. It's kind of a depressed market now, and this just added a little fuel to that. We'd still like to see, in my personal opinion and I think most farmers I've talked to, at least here in Wisconsin, we want trade, not aid.

CORNISH: Sales aren't just about the total number of soybeans purchased, right? It's also about the relationships that these farmers have built with their buyers. How did these tariffs affect those relationships?

KREMER: I think it's yet to be seen. We're certainly concerned about our relationship with our trade partners, China, the Pacific Rim. Farmers have developed these relationships, farmer dollars, checkoff dollars, guys getting on planes literally going to China, talking to end-users. We need to continue to cultivate those relationships moving forward and make sure that we haven't lost them. It's very critical that we maintain those networks and those relationships that the generation before me made. And hopefully, the generation after me can continue to cultivate that. That is paramount. We need trade to be successful long term.

CORNISH: Brad Kremer is a soybean farmer from Wisconsin. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KREMER: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.