At present, one of the top 10 exports of the United States are soybeans, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, with an export value of $22.3 billion. The same data visualization program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that a top 10 import of China is soybeans.
    Also at present, the countries are engaged in a commerce skirmish with probing, punitive tariffs that threatens to become a full-scale trade war. And some local agriculturalists, like Jim Martin, are understandably concerned, to say the least. Martin, an Illinois Soybean Association district director from Livingston County, said that there might be some positives resulting from the economic conflict, but cautioned that there was a significant risk of financial repercussions on Illinois farmers.
    It might not register as such in the mind of the average Illinois resident, but soy is one the state’s most important economic engines, consistently ranking inside the top three products of the Prairie State. And ever since President Donald Trump lashed out at Beijing for alleged unfair trade practices, the economic enmity between the two counties has begun boiling over.
    Martin believed that the ideal result would be bringing both the U.S. and China to the bargaining table so that the two countries could negotiate the best mutual way forward. In the meantime, however, he underscored the worry that the bitter barter battle had on agriculturalists.
    “A lot of people don’t realize that soy is one of the largest exports of our country,” Martin said. “Farmers are concerned. You have the two largest economies in the world bantering back and forth and, while nothing too serious has taken effect yet, it’s still a concern.”
    The ISA district director said that a Chinese tariff on soy could detrimentally affect the agricultural staple’s price.
    “It could negatively impact the price that we receive,” he said. “One way to look at it is that a tariff is like an extra sales tax on the product, and being that agriculture is such a major employer, it could be a trickle down effect in that it affects several parts of our economy, especially right here in Illinois, in Iowa and several places all around the Midwest.”
    A lot of planning goes into the annual farming season and a lot of expenses are incurred throughout it, Martin noted, adding that farmers relied a lot on market stability when it came time to sell their yields.
    “Farm equipment is one of the major, major expenses farmers have,” he said. “By the time the farmer sees the return on his investment, that’s a whole growing season and there’s a lot of transactions during that growing season, where a farmer is spending money during the crop year where all those prices could be negatively impacted.
    “It had adds a lot of unpredictably and concern when the price we might receive for our product is up in the air and whether or not we’re going to turn a profit. That’s on top of the unpredictably that comes with dealing with Mother Nature on a daily basis.”