Ag Hopes for Trade, Farm Bill Wins this Week


By Steve Kopperud, Brownfield

November 30, 2018


Agriculture, never shy making its wants and needs known to power, is hoping for a two-fer this coming week. First, business and industry broadly and agriculture most specifically want to wake up Sunday morning to hear that President Trump kissed and made up with China’s President Xi Jinping at their dinner and trade chat December 1.   Then ag wants a Farm Bill signed, sealed and delivered to Trump for his speedy signature.  As said, ag wants these deeds done as soon as possible or next week, whichever comes first.


The first goal is likely achievable, but it may take a couple of dinners over a couple of months to get the U.S. exactly where ag wants to it vis a vis U.S.-China trade and tariffs. As I write this, analysts are arguing about what it will take to ease the China tariff pressure on stock market and commodity prices.  In a perfect world, the president announces he’s rolling back everyone’s tariffs and the immediate reaction is record ag imports by China and friends.


However, the ever-present Trump bravado isn’t evident right now.   As he walked on to Air Force One on his way to the G20 in Buenos Aires, Trump said this: “I think we’re very close to doing something with China, but I don’t know that I want to do it.  Because what we have right now is billions and billions of dollars coming into the U.S. in the form of tariffs or taxes.  So, I really don’t know. But I will tell you I think China wants to make a deal.  I’m open to making a deal.  But frankly, I like the deal we have right now.”   That’s way too schizophrenic for my taste.


Reading between the lines, the president’s statement means he’s not 100% sure he can deliver the goods on his Xi meeting. Or the statement could also be a ploy to keep the Chinese guessing and get Xi to blink first.  We know from experience that at the very least, the spin coming out of Buenos Aires will be hyper positive.  If we’re truly lucky, the Chinese, and to an extent Trump, will both blink and we’ll have a plan for ending the tariff tit-for-tat.


As for that Farm Bill priority, it’s a done deal unless someone throws an 11th-hour grenade into the process.


Farm Bill compromises are in hand, rewrites are just about done, we’re just waiting for the price tag from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The big four ag lawmakers jettisoned the big ugly issues, like food stamp work requirements and dismantling conservation programs; papered over the merely nasty stuff, as in...