Upcoming tariffs and a possible trade war with China could negatively effect Tazewell county farmers, who have already been impacted by tariff talks.
Recent economic tensions between the United States and other nations, most notably China have driven down the prices of agricultural commodities like corn, soybean and hogs. Because Illinois is one of the country’s leading producers of all three commodities, Tazewell County farmers could be among those adversely affected by a prospective trade war with China.
“The tariff talk with China has really impacted the prices of corn, soybean and hogs,” said Kent Kleinschmidt, president of the Tazewell County Farm Bureau.
The mutual threats of tariffs between the Trump administration and the Chinese government, Kleinschmidt added, are only the latest development in a trend that has seen low worldwide corn and soybean prices for the past several years.
“We’ve had good production since 2012, which was a drought year,” he said. “We’re in a world market. If we have a good yield and other countries do too, then there is a global surplus of grain. If there is a big supply, prices go down.”
The current average cost per bushel of corn on the world market is slightly over $3, while the average price of soybeans is slightly over $8 per bushel. Kleinschmidt estimated that the average farmer, depending on production costs, could make a profit at $4 per bushel of corn and $9 per bushel of soybeans.
“It’s not a very rosy picture on commodity prices,” he said. “When prices are this low, we need more bushels to sell.”
Although it is too early to tell if Tazewell County farmers will be able to grow and sell enough commodities to make up for low prices, Kleinschmidt said that signs for a productive crop yield are encouraging. The southern part of the county has gone short of rain in comparison to other areas of Tazewell like Morton or Tremont. However, he believes that the rainfall throughout the county was adequate for a productive growing season and harvest.
“The weather this year has been kind of funny,” he said. “We really didn’t have a spring. We went from cold and wet in April, then started to warm up at the end of the month. Everybody pretty much got their corn planted in April, and we actually went through a dry spell in May in southern Tazewell until we got rain right at the end of the month. Since then, we have enough rain to keep it going. Your yard grass is always a good indicator, and we’ve been mowing every week so far. That’s always a good sign. If there’s enough moisture for your grass to grow, there is probably enough for our crops.”
So far, there do not seem to be issues with Tazewell County with crop-destroying fungi. However, voracious Japanese beetles present a nuisance for local farmers.
“I was at the edge of a beanfield last week, and I could see where the Japanese beetles had eaten on the leaves,” said Kleinschmidt. “They can do that, and they can also eat the silk on the ears of corn. But they aren’t so bad that you have to treat them. I was hoping they were on their way out and would never come back. But that didn’t happen this year.”
Tazewell County Farm Bureau Manager Emily Rogier concurred that early developments paint a heartening picture for agricultural productivity in Tazewell County.
“Yields are looking up so far,” she said. “Farmers are just wrapping up the winter wheat harvest, and their yields are looking to be higher than expected.”
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Tazewell County contains 337,376 acres of farmland. The chief commodities grown on those acres are field corn and soybeans. However, the county also produces pumpkins, feed corn, and specialty crops.
“There are a lot of specialty crops being grown in sandy areas in the western part of the county, including green beans, peas, sweet corn and popcorn,” said Kleinschmidt.