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'Things are going to get pretty grim': US farmers worried amid tariffs, trade war with China

Posted at 1:24 PM, Nov 15, 2019

For generations, Dave Walton's family has owned a farm in Wilton, Iowa.

“We bought this farm in 1901 so I’m fourth generation of this farm," Walton says. “We grow soybeans, corn, alfalfa; pasture beef, cattle, sheep."

Walton knows the impact of the trade war firsthand.

“Soybeans have been hit hardest, they were one of the first products to get tariffs," he says.

The farmer says tariffs have brought a level of uncertainty soybean farmers haven't seen in a long time.

“China is our largest export buyer overseas," Walton says. "Our biggest buyer of soybeans essentially has been out of the market for about a year and a half now. That dropped our price almost $2 a bushel.”

The price change for many Iowans like Walton has left its mark.

“We’ve really tightened the belt, we had to look at every expenditure. We haven’t really purchased any equipment, haven’t replaced any equipment. We’ve done the repair work ourselves," he says. "The family living budget is down to the bone so we’ve really had to tighten the belt to get through this.”

He says waiting for a trade deal between the U.S. and China has been an emotional roller coaster.

"You know, you hear they get together and get some positive news out of D.C., or whoever they’re negotiating, and you have a little bit of hope, and a week later it blows up with a tweet sometimes or the Chinese say ‘no, we’re not going to honor that deal,’ " he says.

It's a waiting game he says can't go on forever.

"The clock’s been ticking for a while,” Walton says. “We’ve made adjustments and the market starting to come back. If we can stay at this level, we could probably ride it out for a little while. But I would say another year and a half, two years … if we don’t have a deal, things are going to get pretty grim.”