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Ohio farmers are finally back in the fields. The looming concern? China.

By Allyson Brown • May 11, 2018 at 8:45 AM

Better weather has allowed Ohio farmers to get back into the fields after a slow start to the season, but concerns about China loom as work continues.

China has threatened tariffs on various exported U.S. products following the Trump administration’s decision to add tariffs to Chinese steel and aluminum imported into the country.

Adding to the concerns are possible China tariffs on soybeans exported from the United States. China is the No. 1 importer of U.S. soybeans, one of the top-produced crops by Ohio farmers. Ohio is the ninth-highest soybean-producing state.

No action has been taken by China on the soybean tariffs, but the threat has caused soybean prices to drop.

This comes after a late start to planting various crops in the Miami Valley because of cold and soggy April weather, said Darin Leach, executive director of the Logan and Champaign Counties Farm Service Agency.

“April was a little slow on getting started, but the weather finally broke and guys are getting into fields and starting to get some things planted,” Leach said.

Farmers in the area mostly plant soybeans and corn. Logan County has planted 30 percent of its corn, and Champaign County has completed 50 percent. The two counties together have planted about 10 percent of soybeans.

A large part of that is due to the weather, and Brian Harbage and his farm staff are making the most of it now. He and others had to wait until the soil warmed up to plant. He works with corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cattle. He was out planting corn Tuesday.

Harbage likes to get started sometime in the beginning of April if possible, but a break in past couple of weeks has allowed farmers to catch up on the late start. A strong growing season is still very possible, he said.

He and other farmers are worried about the proposed soybean tariffs because of how much of the crop is grown in Ohio.

“When you look at a field … the third row, of every row of soybeans, goes to China,” Harbage said.

The United States Department of Agriculture forecast earlier this month notes that soybean planting in 2018 would exceed corn planting for the first time in 35 years. Soybeans will cover 89 million acres this year, compared to 88 million acres for corn, the USDA said.

Plantings for both crops will decline from a year ago, the forecast said. The government’s spring wheat estimate topped all forecasts, with an expected 12.6 million acres, up 15 percent from last year. Last year, U.S. farmers planted 90.2 million acres of corn and 90.1 million acres of soybeans.

If a tariff is imposed, it would have a domino effect in rural communities, Harbage said.

“When the commodity prices go down, its going to affect what framers … can pay, for land rent or to buy new machinery, or it will even affect the consumers,” Harbage said.

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