Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trade war has hidden impact on grain storage

U.S. soybean farmers have already been hurt by the trade war with China, but the dispute has triggered another problem: not enough storage space in grain elevators. "Some farmers are gathering more soybeans than they can sell or store, jam-packed silos are running out of room, and the trains that usually carry soybeans to the Pacific Northwest for shipping to China aren’t moving," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico. The backups caused by the storage shortage have driven soy prices down even more.

North Dakota, which became a soybean state because of its rail lines that allow fast export to China from the Pacific Coast, is particularly hard-hit. Increasing Chinese demand has driven an American soybean production boom for the past 10 years. "Great Plains farmers directly fed the overseas markets, harvesting more than 243 million bushels in North Dakota, at a price of $2.1 billion in the last market year. The majority of that crop fattened Chinese livestock," Kyle Swenson reports for The Washington Post. But after Beijing responded to American tariffs with, among others, a 25 percent tariff on soybeans, "the escalation essentially hit pause on what had been a rollicking international market for North Dakota’s farmers."

Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has promised up to $12 billion in relief, that money won't come until the crop has been harvested, and rainy and snowy weather has delayed the harvest. "This year might not be as bad because a lot of guys have forward-contracted a lot of this year’s crop already," soybean farmer Joe Ericson told Swenson. "But if it goes into next year, it could be tough for soybean."

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