Market News & Headlines >> Soybean Growers Urge Trump to Rethink Tariffs

Chinese officials have warned that U.S. soybeans are a prime target for retaliation against tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on steel and aluminum imports, according to the American Soybean Association, which has urged President Trump to reconsider the tariff decision. 

Warnings to the soybean growers group about their product being used as a target in trade disputes were made last year, ASA officials told Reuters on Friday. They came up in talks between ASA leaders and officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington and also in conversations between Chinese officials and U.S. soybean farmers, when the farmers were on a trip to China last fall, according to the group. 

"We have heard directly from the Chinese that U.S. soybeans are prime targets for retaliation," the trade group said in a statement on Friday. "The idea that we’re the only game in town, and these partners have no choice but to purchase from the U.S. is flatly wrong." ASA officials declined to elaborate further. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Friday. 

In a letter on Monday, ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer urged President Trump to “modify if not reverse [his] decision to avoid a trade war that could seriously undermine our industry, which is highly dependent on trade.” 

Heisdorffer detailed the significant contributions of soybeans to the U.S. trade balance and also highlighted the importance of the Chinese marketplace to American soybeans, noting that China was the destination for 61% of total U.S. soybean exports in 2017.   

Heisdorffer also dispelled the incorrect assumption that whatever market share the U.S. loses to South American competitors like Brazil can be made up with sales to other markets. “In the case of soybeans, this argument fails to recognize that our largest competitor, Brazil, is continuing to expand soybean production on new lands,” Heisdorffer said. “Brazil is already the world’s largest soybean exporter, including to China, and would respond quickly in the event U.S. trade actions trigger retaliation against our soybean exports.”