Soy Vey! Ohio Valley Farmers Caught Up in Trade War

Apr 5, 2018


Soy grower Davie Stevens on his west Kentucky farm.
Credit Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource

China buys more than half of the soybeans produced in the Ohio Valley. While a new 25 percent tariff is just a threat from the region's largest buyer, the signs of a trade war between President Trump’s tariff list and China’s has farmers caught in its crosshairs. This all comes as the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visits the region this week.

Each morning Davie Stevens wakes up to check commodities online, Wednesday morning was no different, except the market price of soybeans had dropped almost 40 cents.

“At a projected crop of 4.3 billions bushels of soybeans this year. Soybean farmers by overnight have lost 1.72 billion in value. So is it a big deal? It's a huge deal.”


Stevens farms about 3000 acres of soybeans along with corn and poultry at his west Kentucky farm in Hickman. Stevens also serves as Vice President of the American Soybean Association.

“I am concerned that if we lose this market with China, which is our number one export market, around $14 billion dollars in soybean sales annually, if we lose that, it will be picked up by our southern neighbors, which is South America.”


The potential trade war with China can be added to the list of worries that farmers in the Ohio Valley have under this administration. The ag industry is still waiting to see what will happen with NAFTA renegotiation, the free trade deal between Canada and Mexico. Movement is expected in July after Mexico’s presidential elections.

“Our first reaction is I'm one of extreme concern and one of extreme disappointment that it has come to this. Trade is extremely important to soybean farmers, not just in Ohio but all over the country,” said Jennifer Coleman.

Stevens checks prices on the soybean marke
Credit Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource


 Coleman, communications director for the Ohio Soybean Association said over the past decade exports from Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky topped $2 billion in products to NAFTA countries. But it’s Kentucky and Ohio that has the most to lose in tariff threats on soybeans. The two states exported around $3.4 billion dollars in total sales last year. Davie Stevens says uncertainty is just part of the agriculture game.

“The farmers, we're always just optimistic, more optimistic or hopeful that everything will work.”