Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the Chinese government played President Trump for a fool on farm policy by boycotting American commodities and allowing them to pile up into lower-valued products that China then bought later.
The easy-to-read rubric is devastating for Iowa farmers, Vilsack, a former two-term Democratic governor of Iowa, said in an interview with this newspaper.
“When you’ve got a lot of surplus corn and a lot of surplus soybeans, you know what happens, the price goes down,” Vilsack said. “So they (China) are now buying corn and soybeans at a discounted price. That’s not a great deal for American farmers.”
Successful Farming magazine reports that as of Aug. 6, some 16.9 million tons of U.S. soybeans had been sold to China in the current marketing year, and 10.3 million tons were on the books for delivery in the new marketing year, according to USDA.
At this point in 2017, before the trade war, 36.3 million tons of soybeans had been sold to China for delivery in the ongoing trade year, the magazine reports.
Moreover, Vilsack said in the Times Herald interview that China was smart with the manner in which it went after American goods.
“They basically assessed retaliatory tariffs on items they knew they could get somewhere else,” he said.
Vilsack said Trump’s posturing as a pro-Iowa, pro-agriculture president is divorced from fact.
“It’s like we live in a different universe from these people, a different state,” Vilsack said.
The Trump Administration, Vilsack said, also is affecting farmers by granting small-refinery waivers to oil companies allowing that industry to skirt around the Renewable Fuel Standard, which drags down commodity-boosting biofuels like ethanol. About 1 billion bushels of corn were not used in ethanol production because of Trump waivers, which increased the surplus of corn, Vilsack said, citing USDA figures.
Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary under President Obama, said farmers had some of their best years in history during Obama’s White House tenure.
The Obama-Biden Administration acted aggressively on trade for farmers and lifted the Renewable Fuel Standard to new heights, all leading to higher prices for Iowa farmers, he said.
“It’s kind of hard to argue that the Obama-Biden Administration was just absolutely hostile to farmers,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack, a strong Joe Biden supporter, said the former vice president’s plan for American agriculture would create new markets for farmers by setting up systems to pay them for carbon sequestration and creating new local food markets in which producers can negotiate with schools and other organizations.
The former Iowa governor played a central role in drafting Biden’s rural development plan, which has a heavy focus on Vilsack’s top-tier topic: creating a bio-based economy in which farm byproducts are used in a host of other products and endeavors.