My Farm's Trade Story

Megan Dwyer, Henry County

Trade means prosperity. Our farm is within 50 miles of six river terminals that allow for competitive marketing:  Those markets depend on export demand. Not only does our bottom line depend on grain prices, we also sell equipment to supplement our farm income. An increase in steel prices with reduced demand for equipment is a combination we can’t afford. Farming and selling equipment to other farmers allows us to give our three kids the best life possible. Drawn out trade negotiations affect not only our cash crops but also our supplementary income stream, something we can’t afford.

Joni Bucher, McDonough County

Trade is vital to my family and my farm. International trade adds around $300 per head in value and, as a beef producer, I can’t afford to lose that premium. It’s unnerving for farmers. We operate under constant unknowns, and adding another layer of uncertainty with the state of current and future trade agreements makes business planning difficult. I want to pass my family farm’s legacy on to my sons and generations to come in my family. Without trade, I wonder if that will be possible.

Jack McCormick, Randolph County

Trade is critical to me and to my farm. I am blessed to live a few miles away from an export terminal, providing me better marketing options than if my corn is only used domestically. Nearly all of my corn and beans are exported, most likely to Japan and Asia. Without trade and export markets, I wouldn’t be able to make the necessary investments to survive. Regarding the current trade war, I am deeply concerned about losing markets and how my farm will be forced to change my business model to adapt.

Eric Rund, Champaign County

Without trade, I would not be able to buy things my farm needs and contribute to the local economy. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and China trade are essential to my farm. My corn is mostly exported to Canada and Mexico, and 40 percent of my soybeans go to China. Mutually beneficial trade agreements evolve out of relationships cultivated over decades, and any damage to those relationships hurts farmers for a long time. If we are seen to be unreliable suppliers, these markets will find new trading partners. Trade is a two-way street.

Mark VonHolten, Whiteside County

I’m all for advancing the country’s interests, and we recognize what the Administration is trying to accomplish, but my concern with the trade war lingering on is my ability to survive the market volatility and uncertainty. Hog futures trading in December at $50 per hundredweight is a $30/head loss on my farm, which may force me out of production. Losses pile up very fast and the government programs may not be able to offset the collapse of the market.

Jeff Heinsohn, DeKalb County

We need stability in the market. We need trade. Most of my soybeans go to Asia, so trade is essential for my farm and my family.  It’s basic economics: the more we receive for a product like soybeans the more we can spend in our local communities. We’re third-generation farmers, and it’s our hope that our children will choose to farm. But with the uncertainty with trade, their future is also uncertain.

Keith Mussman, Kankakee County

Farmers know that without trade we would have a humongous surplus in grains. Trade is essential to my farm. Trade for me is “just a matter of paying our bills.” As far as trade agreements, agriculture had a fair deal before, but now it feels like we are operating at a loss. I am near retirement age and I am very concerned about my farm for future generations.

John Kiefner, Will County

You never want to lose a customer, because once you lose them, they do not come back. The same goes for countries that buy U.S. ag products. I am very concerned that if we burn bridges with our soybean customers, we will not get them back. The China situation is very personal for me right now because all my corn and soybeans go to Asia. Cutting ties with China, Canada, and Mexico would be a big mistake.

Chris Hausman, Champaign County

Midwest agriculture depends on open and free trade. Farm income is in jeopardy without trade. Farming is a long-term profession, and trade makes our livelihood more viable for the future. I am especially concerned about the trade conflict with China and our soybean market. We should be doing everything we can to maintain market share in China; we cannot afford to lose that soybean market. At the end of the day, farmers already struggle to make ends meet, and putting barriers on free trade makes it nearly impossible for us to do so.

Ken Maschhoff, Clinton County

Hog farmers are feeling significant financial pain because of the current trade situation.  Pork is on three retaliation lists and faces a 62 percent tariff going to China and a 20 percent duty on shipments to Mexico. Hog farmers are bearing a disproportionate share of the retaliatory burden. Farmers understand the administration is balancing many interests in trying to realign U.S. trade policy. But time is working against us. The longer these trade disputes go on, the more damage we face.

Kirk Leifer, Randolph County

NAFTA and China trade are essential to me because a quarter of my corn is exported to Mexico and two-thirds of my soybeans go to China. Living near the Mississippi River, my farm depends on foreign exports; it would be very difficult to adapt if the U.S. turns its back on trade. Trade conflicts can cause long-term damage; hence Midwest farmers are justifiably fearful. There is no way for farmers to prepare for a complete loss of major markets in one season.

Krista Swanson, Knox County

Most of the soybeans grown on our farm are exported, with China being our single largest customer. Tariff exchanges and trade uncertainty have pushed soybean prices down more than $2 per bushel since May. Like many farm families, my husband and I hope our children will continue our family’s long farming history. Unfortunately, financial pressure resulting from a prolonged period of prices this low paired with current expenses could make transition to the next generation a challenge.

Michele Aavang, McHenry County

Trade is essential to the viability of our farm. We grow food grade soybeans, all of which are sold to Asia. The loss of that market in addition to the significant drop in value of our other crops has led to an unsustainable financial situation. In the past, diversification (raising livestock in addition to crops) was a way to help with fluctuating prices, but now with all farm products taking a hit, we're unsure of how to proceed. It’s impossible to make future plans with so much uncertainty. I worry about the future of this farm, which has been in the family since the 1840s, especially as we work to transition our farm to the next generation, my son.

Gary Asay, Henry County

While the trade policy environment continues to remain challenging, it is impossible to overstate the importance of exports to the U.S. pork industry. Having exported nearly 27 percent of our production last year, it is even more critical that we in the U.S. pork industry focus on other emerging market opportunities. Industry leaders recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic focused on strengthening ties to Latin America and the Caribbean region, which holds great promise for exports in the coming years. We are also hopeful that we can continue to partner with our customers in Mexico and China, which were our largest export markets by volume last year.

Larry Miller, Franklin County

Trade is important to us because almost all of the grain that leaves our farm, particularly with corn and soybeans, go to river points and south. Some of it’s processed in southern Illinois and much of it moves on from there. So much of the grain that I produce is dependent upon trade and exports.