Farmers in the United States don’t want bailouts. They want markets.
With as much in mind, agricultural forces have been busy trying to expand opportunities for farmers in Kansas and beyond who’ve been hamstrung by President Trump’s shortsighted trade war.
Kansas Wheat, an organization that advocates for wheat growers, recently sent representatives to Brazil and Colombia in hopes of securing new exports of wheat to the South American countries.
That should be music to the ears of Kansas producers in a state that’s the largest exporter of hard red winter wheat. In 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture reported Kansas produced 19% of U.S. wheat — more than 300 million bushels. In a state where farmers understandably take great pride in feeding the world, the 2019 Kansas wheat harvest could produce more than 30 billion loaves of bread.
With price volatility and other challenges, farmers who know to expect ups and downs often improvise, to include looking for new opportunities overseas or expanding existing trade relationships. That's especially vital with no end in sight to the president’s trade war.
For U.S. wheat producers, South America already is an established market, so it makes sense to determine whether there’s an opportunity for more sales of wheat to countries that aren’t in the cross-hairs of the president’s trade war.
Now in its second year, the ongoing U.S.-China economic conflict has rattled international agricultural relationships that American producers need. Mix in low prices and weather woes, and the situation has become dire for many farmers who now must consider whether it makes sense to stay in the business as profits become more elusive.
Wheat, along with soybeans and corn, were subjected to retaliatory tariffs by China following Trump’s implementation of more than $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. That drove price drops for U.S. grain, and economic losses for farmers.
Unfortunately, the subsidies Trump offered farmers hurt by tariffs too often haven’t come close to offsetting their losses.
As tough as it may be these days — farm bankruptcies continue to climb with the stress on farmers a sobering concern — producers will continue to streamline their operations and do whatever else they can to ease the negative fallout. They also have a knack for pursuing new, innovative strategies as a way to improve efficiencies — and need more support in those endeavors.
In Kansas, we now have farmers planting fewer acres of wheat. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported some 7 million planted acres of wheat this year, which may be the fewest acres devoted to the grain in the past century. More Kansas farmers also are setting their hopes on crop alternatives.
They know sticking with the status quo won’t stop the bleeding. They also know Main Streets in their communities have a huge stake in every harvest, and how important their efforts are to the overall economic success of the ag-driven Sunflower State.
Folks in urban parts of Kansas may not have a keen grasp of what’s at stake when farmers are on the receiving end of bad decision-making. The sad reality is that with plenty of uncontrollable forces causing problems, there’s no room to target producers with deliberate setbacks.
We need to see more energy spent on ways to encourage innovation that helps farmers succeed, and less time devoted to senseless plots that block markets they need to survive.