It’s been a painful year for Duane Stateler and many other farmers in Hancock County.

First, President Donald Trump threatened a trade war. Everyone knew farm goods would become collateral damage when other countries retaliated with their own tariffs on Americas top exports.

Then President Trump imposed the threatened tariffs. Other countries retaliated, and prices dropped for U.S. soybeans and other commodities, like the pork Stateler raises.

When the Trump administration announced this week that it would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war, Stateler and others had mixed reactions. The McComb-area pork producer has seen an 18-20 percent decline in pork prices in recent weeks.

Stateler also raises corn, soybeans and wheat.

“I would rather have the doggone trade than any type of subsidy,” Stateler said. “It just gives a bad image to agriculture.”

John Motter, a Jenera-area farmer, agreed.

“Farmers dont want a subsidy for our crop. What we want is fair markets, free markets and let the market decide the value of my crop,” he said.
Motter called the Trump administration’s aid announcement “bad news.”

“It tells me that the trade war is going to be longer term,” said Motter, past chairman of the United Soybean Board. “That tells me that they are looking for this to last beyond harvest. I don’t think either side wins when we go out farther and farther.”

Stateler, too, worries about a trade war carrying on much longer.

“If we don’t get these deals done in the next six to eight months, I don’t know if they’ve got pockets deep enough for enough subsidies to cover for the losses that the farmers are going to incur,” he said.

Ed Lentz, Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources, said it would be premature to judge the relief announcement this week.

He said he is optimistic, but needs to hear more details about how the relief would be distributed. Lentz said the announcement was at least a movement in the right direction. He was pleased that the federal government is recognizing that farmers have been taking losses in the trade war.

Van Buren area farmer Neil Clark also is waiting for more details about how a relief program would work before making a judgment.

But something needs to be done, he said.

“If we want to keep farmers in business, we’ve got to support them somewhere along the line or we won’t have food to eat because theres people that sad to say some of them are committing suicide,” Clark said. It’s gotten so bad, especially in the Wisconsin area where the dairy thing is down.”

“All in all, I guess I’d have to say (the relief) is a good thing,” he said. “We just like to be treated fair.”

“They better protect us,” said Cecil Boes, who raises Holstein beef cattle and grain between Findlay, Arcadia and Bloomdale.

The cattle market is “hurting a lot,” he said.

“Were taking the brunt of this (trade war),” Boes said.

“I understand what (President Trump) is doing but it seems like agriculture is taking the biggest blow of it,” Boes said.

Still, the remedy for the farmers woes, the stigma of subsidy, is a bitter one, Stateler said.

“We had just gotten to the place where we have pretty well gotten rid of all of the subsidies. Farmers have been pushing for that for 25-30 years. There’s still some subsidies for sugar and some of those things. We’ve pretty much gotten rid of everything on the grain side because it didn’t do any good,” Stateler said. “All we wanted was insurance. Let us buy insurance for risk if we’ve got a bad crop, for whatever reason, whether it be hail or drought or flood or whatever.

“And now they’re talking about throwing a subsidy at us because they’re screwing with the trade issue to make up for the money that’s getting knocked off the markets,” he said.