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Trade Delays Discouraging for Area Farmers

by Caitlin Yoder

Published: Friday, May 10, 2019

Mother nature is taking her toll on farmers across the U.S. this year. The Western Corn Belt endured major flooding this winter and those states are still feeling the blow. On top of that, the rain keeps falling, deterring the beginning of planting for many. Farmers are used to dealing with the weather, but other factors add to their troubles.

As trade negotiations drag on, some farmers are becoming discouraged. Commodity prices continue to dip as a result of the ongoing war over trade. African Swine Fever, another worry that is heavy on the minds of farmers, may be a dou-ble-sided blade to swine producers in the U.S.

Some area farmers have taken the chance to start planting. However, Young Family Farms in Wolcottville has held off. Danny Young said they made the right decision. The ground temperature is too low and moisture only adds to the problem.

"I'm really glad our seeds are still in the boxes, to be perfectly honest," Ryan Young said. "I don't want it out there in that mud."

Weather is always a factor for farmers, so the battle is familiar to them. Last year, farmers expe-rienced similar conditions. Muddy fields and large puddles coupled with rain that wouldn't hold off made it diffi-cult to get seed in the ground before it was too late. However, there is no way they can control the weather.

"God says not yet," Alan Young said.

Last spring, the Youngs were able to take advantage of some dry weather and complete the task. Despite the challenge, they aren't worried about this year's conditions yet.

"There will be a time, but I don't know how big of a window," Danny said. "There's always time to get to planting."

Market prices are another factor that is out of their control. Danny's outlook on the trade war has changed since July, when he said he didn't think it would last long. Danny also pointed out that farmers were already enduring low profits last year and trade disputes only added to the problem. He said small and big farms alike were likely to suffer. His prediction turned out to be true.

There seems to be no end in sight for the trade war, and although they are discouraged at the lengthy dispute, the Youngs continue to hold onto hope that things will work out for the best. They are becoming more disappointed with the re-sults so far, and encourage swift ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.

"It keeps getting put off farther down the road," Danny said. "That's not helping anything, really."

The Youngs said they don't understand why there hasn't been more progress for trade. The prices of fertilizer, chemicals and equipment haven't come down, which puts more pressure on farmers' wallets, Danny add-ed.

"Farmers have sacrificed quite a bit, I feel, to make this thing work for the betterment of the whole country," he said.

The Youngs had planned to store their soybeans until prices increased. However, they made the decision to sell some. They have sold about half of what they had stored.

As hog producers, African Swine Fever is always in the backs of their minds. The Youngs have always practiced biosecurity, including not allowing outside trailers on the property near their hog barns. They are careful to do anything they can to prevent an outbreak of any kind on their farm.

"We've always got to be aware of biosecurity," Alan said.

However, like weather and trade, disease entering the U.S. is also out of their control. The Youngs be-lieve government officials doing all they can to prevent it from entering the U.S.

More than anything, the Youngs hope the disease can be controlled. However, there have been some unexpected, positive outcomes for U.S. producers. African Swine Fever has hit Chinese hogs hard, and Danny admits that it has helped drive up the prices of pork in the U.S. The Youngs believe this could work to an advantage for securing a conclusion to trade negotiations. Alan added that in the end, both countries need each other.

"If we get it in this country, anywhere it will shut off our exports," Danny said. "Like my dad always said, one farmer loses, another one will gain. The Chinese and all those farmers are losing because of that disease, so we're gaining now in the hog pric-es."

Farmers are resilient and take pride in their profession. It's a way of life, and despite hardships many find ways to endure the storm. They can't help but wish they had more control over some of those difficul-ties.

"Make the sun shine, make corn prices and bean prices go up, if you've got a wand that does that, I'd sure like to have it for a little while," Ryan added.

Despite relentless trade conflict, one thing remains the same. Danny and his family continue to work through the difficult times, even when the end gets pushed further away. The Youngs are a multigenerational farming family that won't give up tending to the land and their animals despite the conflict the agricultural economy faces. The family raises hogs and beef cattle along with crops.

"It's just not an easy time right now. Of course, if it was easy anybody could do it," Danny said.

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