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Soybeans Sink as China Hikes Tariffs on American Farm Products

Megan Durisin and Ashley Robinson
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Soybeans Sink as China Hikes Tariffs on American Farm Products

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The news just turned gloomier for U.S. farmers.

China announced on Friday that it will impose additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s latest planned levies on Chinese imports. The measures include an added 5% tariff on soybeans and 10% on American pork as of Sept. 1. Corn and cotton products were also on the list.

November soybean futures in Chicago erased early gains and closed down 1.4%, extending losses after Trump said he’ll announce a response to the latest Chinese tariffs Friday afternoon. Cotton and hog futures both slumped, as did shares in crop handler Andersons Inc. and tractor maker Deere & Co.

Corn also declined, although with China no longer a big player in U.S. corn, traders are more focused on Midwest crop development than the trade war.

“This escalation will affect us not because of the increasing tariff on our sales, which have been at a virtual standstill for months, but through time,” Davie Stephens, president of the American Soybean Association, said in an emailed statement. “The longevity of this situation means worsening circumstances for soy growers who still have unsold product from this past season and new crops in the ground this season.”

China, the world’s top soy importer, has already had a 25% tariff on the U.S. crop and has curbed purchases of American farm products for months as trade tensions simmer between the nations.

“As far as supply and demand, it means nothing because buyers weren’t buying anyways,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone. “It’s more about making headlines than it is actually changing the amount of soybeans that flow between the U.S. and China.”

Tensions have been increasing in the American farm community in recent weeks. Farmers leveled criticism at Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at a fair in Minnesota earlier this month over Trump’s yearlong trade war with China, which has eroded demand for agricultural products and pressured already low prices. Top Trump administration officials also met this week to consider options for quelling a backlash in the Midwest over recent biofuel policy moves.

The spat between the U.S. and China has spurred added demand for South American soybeans. Export prices at Brazil’s Paranagua port are widening versus U.S. Gulf supply, Commodity3 data show.

U.S. farmers will begin harvesting this year’s soybean crops starting in September. Stockpiles were expected to balloon to an all-time high in the season that ends this month as American export demand dims.

The trade-war escalations are going to keep some U.S. supplies out of export markets, said Ken Eriksen, senior vice president at Agribusiness Intelligence IHS Markit.

“The seesaw, back-and-forth action of the last few weeks, this is just more damaging to seeing soybean exports, pork exports and beef exports to continue going to China,” he said.

--With assistance from Michael Hirtzer.

To contact the reporters on this story: Megan Durisin in London at mdurisin1@bloomberg.net;Ashley Robinson in Winnipeg (Non BLP Loc) at arobinson193@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at lthomasson@bloomberg.net, James Attwood, Steven Frank

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