Davenport soybean grower shares impacts of trade impasses; requests swift movement forward
Ankeny, Iowa — While progress with international ag trading partners is encouraging, more work needs done and soon, said an Eastern Iowa soybean farmer in remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.
Robb Ewoldt traveled to Washington D.C. today to light a fire for stepped-up action on U.S. ag trade while farmers and rural communities continue to struggle economically due to sluggish demand and weak prices.
“Looking back, I can remember thinking, optimistically, that the trade war and economic pain inflicted on farmers like me would be short-lived,” said Ewoldt, who serves as ISA District 6 Director and Secretary. “I was wrong.”
Nearly two years following the start of the U.S.-China trade dispute, soybean prices remain below the cost of production for most farmers. Signing of a Phase One agreement with the world’s largest soybean buyer and passage of the landmark U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) have yet to resonate on the Chicago Board of Trade.
“I wanted to believe the market was just experiencing a knee-jerk reaction and things would rebound quickly,” Ewoldt testified. “But as members of this committee know all too well, two years have passed, tariffs remain in place and real solutions benefiting America’s farmers remain elusive.”
Ewoldt is one of many farmers adversely impacted by lackluster exports. In 2018, he lost nearly $100,000 due in part to retaliatory Chinese tariffs on soybeans.
“Depressed commodity prices and the sustained economic pain have forever changed my life,” he said. “And I’m not alone. Many farmers would share a similar story if they were providing testimony to you today.”
The financial squeeze is especially acute for Ewoldt. Like many other families, Robb and his wife Jennifer rent the land they farm. Renting rather than owning farmland makes it even more challenging to cash flow the family farm and make long-term plans.
Not one to sit idle, Ewoldt has sought practical ways to make up for weak commodity prices. This includes
driving truck at night, restructuring loans and liquidating equipment.
“I farm during the day and then take to the road several nights a week to drive a short-haul semi-truck to
the Twin Cities, Chicago or Milwaukee,” he explained. “I figure, if I’m going be awake at night worried about how to pay down debt, I might as well be doing something to actually pay down debt.”
The farmer leader encouraged Congress and the Administration to:
- Monitor and implement the U.S.-China Phase-One Agreement and work towards the removal of all retaliatory tariffs;
- Ensure final ratification of the USMCA by all three countries;
- Assure positive outcomes to bilateral trade negotiations with the EU and the UK; and
- Initiate free trade negotiations with other significant soy and livestock-importing countries including India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Not funded by the soybean checkoff
The Iowa Soybean Association (www.iasoybeans.com) is “Driven To Deliver” increased soybean demand through market development and new uses, farmer-focused research and results, timely information and know-how and policy initiatives enabling farmers and the industry to flourish. Founded in 1964 by farmers to serve farmers, ISA is governed by a board of 22 farmers to advocate on behalf of the state’s 40,000 soybean producers, including more than 12,000 ISA farmer members and industry stakeholders.