by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
A diverse group of farmers met with NYS Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball and NY Farm Bureau President David Fisher and agriculture representatives, on Aug. 29 at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse to voice their frustration and outrage over the impact that newly imposed tariffs, that are causing them financial ruin, and to encourage the government to come to a rapid trade agreement.
“I, myself, am a dairy farmer,” said Fisher, who farms in St. Lawrence County. “It’s well known that the dairy economy is struggling through — this will be the fourth year of low milk prices. In fact the farm economy as a whole has not been a bright spot for this country.”
Fisher remarked that farm income was already down about 50 percent before the trade wars began.
He commented that Washington State’s normal export of apples to Mexico is one example of how trade wars could impact New York apple producers.
“The concern is if those apple don’t go south, they will likely go east. New York is a very prominent apple producing state, so we’re very concerned over what’s going to become of our apple farmers. We understand that trade agreements may need to be updated,” Fisher said. “But we have to be careful not to damage the relationships that we already have and depend on.”
Commissioner Ball said New York has been one of the leading producers of agriculture and is acknowledged as such worldwide.
“We have long relied on positive trade relationships,” acknowledged Ball, stating statistics of New York State export to other countries. “In particular with the two largest trade partners, Canada and Mexico. Both of these countries are vital to both New York State and the United States.”
He noted that although New York producers are known for producing consistent quality, tariffs being imposed on agricultural commodities may halt that market.
“We have a very real concern,” Ball said. “Once these markets are lost, we find ourselves in a place where our consumers may go elsewhere. We need to have long-term relationships. We need to have long-term solutions.
“Our organization handles the advocacy of our corn and soybean grower membership body as well as administers the research, promotion and education projects which benefit all soybean farmers across the state who pay into the soybean checkoff,” said NY Corn and Soybean Growers Association’s Exec Director, Colleen Klein. “Economic analysis provided by National Corn Growers Association points to a 44 cent per/bushel depressed corn price for 2018 due to current trade negotiations. That translates to a more than $35 million dollar projected loss for New York farmers on corn grain alone.”
Soybean prices are reflected in a nearly $2 per/ bushel drop.
“Exports are critical to our producers — especially as soybeans are the U.S.’s largest agricultural export, with one out of every third row planted, making its way to China.”
Klein said agricultural exports equal 33 percent of corn and soybean producer’s income.
“Our farmers are reliable, they are resilient, and they are responsible. They are ingenuitive and they are innovative in producing an excellent product for consumers both stateside and abroad, amid a myriad of unpredictable challenges — including the weather — and ever changing consumer demand.”
“As steadfast patriots, we look to our government to recognize that our growers already operate in an environment of uncertainty and hope that this administration will facilitate opening the doorway to global opportunities in a way that is good for our country, its citizens, and its farmers,” said Klein.
Johanna Fox-Bossard, Barbland Dairy in Fabius, NY, described the impact on her family farm, which has multiplies since the onset of the tariffs and trade war.
“Since the end of May, following Mexico’s announcement of 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on United States’ cheeses, the price we receive for our milk has dropped by 14 percent. To put that into realistic terms for our dairy farm, that is a loss of over $3,000 a day. Tariffs are crippling for dairy farmers and hurt the local economy. Farm families like mine and our dairy farming friends across New York State are asking for a quick end to the trade war affecting our families’ livelihoods and our country’s backbone; the American farmer.”
Angela Hofmann, Deputy Director of Farmers for Free Trade, encouraged attendees to show support for free trade and highlighted the importance of open markets.
“Today’s joint event will highlight the price that New York agriculture and manufacturing workers are paying from the trade war — and call attention to the need for consistent and fair trade policies,” said Hofmann, inviting attendees to sign a banner showing their support for free trade.
“The world is watching. The whole world is watching,” commented Commissioner Ball.