Soybean prices are growing concern for local farmers due to trade war

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SURRY, Va. (WAVY) — “We’ve always grown soybeans,” Steve Berryman says as he walks through one of his family’s 1,500 acres of soybeans in Surry County, where the family has farmed for nine generations.

He doesn’t recall such a quick drop in the market price, now about $8.50 a bushel.

China has imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans as part of the back-and-forth tariffs of the trade war. With demand down in China, the price has fallen on the Chicago commodities market.

“Right now we’re about $2 below where we were back in May. That’s a pretty significant drop.”

Down $2 a bushel, fifty bushels an acre, 1,500 total acres.

So the Berryman farm has lost about  $150,000 in six weeks, but that’s only on paper. At least for now.

“We can store them for a period of time if we have to, but eventually you have to sell because you have to pay the bills.”

But Berryman says the downturn has already had an effect.

“It has hurt my pocket book and my lifestyle and my business. Hopefully in the end we’ll win and the price will come back up.”

One of the main purchasers for soybeans in our area is Perdue Agribusiness. A company spokesman says, despite the price downturn, Perdue will find a home for all the soybeans that farmers bring, but the price will continue to be determined by market forces.

John Heisdorffer is an Iowa soybean grower and president of American Soybean Association (ASA). and said on the organization’s website last week, “We have approached the Trump Administration repeatedly and implored them to hear our side of this story.”

Berryman says current prices and the trade war won’t affect how he votes in the midterms. But if it drags out, the 2020 general election might be a different story.

“If nothing’s worked out and we stay here for two or three years, the farmers won’t be happy.” 

Berryman says if the trade war lingers, he can switch some of his acres to cotton and peanuts, but some smaller farms won’t have that flexibility.

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