Tariffs bring uncertainty but could also be an opportunity for soybean growers

Soybean Management Field Day came to Kenesaw in 2018 (NTV News)

Challenges mount for Nebraska soybean growers, who have been hit by tariffs, weeds, and now hail.

“We're dealing with a lot of things right now, things that aren't going away anytime soon,” said Doug Saathoff of Trumbull, who serves on the Nebraska Soybean board.

Marketing is key, as farmers watch their inputs.

“This year, hopefully we'll be sitting pretty good. It's the next year and year after where people will get really concerned. Going to hurt a lot of people,” Saathoff said

Economists say there's a traditional summer price drop-off, and trade isn't the only reason markets are slumping.

“We can't account for everything happening in that market downturn to tariffs,” said Jessica Groskopf, an Extension ag economist.

She said China will likely import more soybeans from Brazil and Argentina. Traditionally, 60 percent of Nebraska’s soybeans that are exported to go China.

She said this could have the consequence of opening new markets.

“We also know the rest of the world is out there for us to export to, so there's opportunity for us and China isn't our only trade partner even if they are a large trade partner at this time,” she said.

Saathoff said the U.S. may diversify, shipping to different countries.

He said, “I talked with AGP in Hastings. Their business is ramping up, shipping soybean meal to southeast Asia. China may have turned their focus away, but everybody else turned their focus to the United States. We're still seeing good demand for our product.”

Groskopf said the key is for farmers to protect themselves, whether that's good crop insurance or contracts that guarantee a minimum price.

And while farmers like to brag about big yields, the cost to produce a crop matters more.

“We joke that bushels don't pay bills,” she said. “Obviously you have to have bushels to sell the crop, but you got to get it sold. It's been a good experience for us, to be able to teach some of those business side of risk management strategies.”

Farmers say it's taking longer than they'd like to sort out, but it's out of their hands.

“I know it's hard to be patient, but nothing we can do about it right now,” Saathoff said.

The other major challenge is the weeds. Growers are certainly hopeful the weed killer dicamba will be available in future years but that remains uncertain.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off