Northeast Missouri Farmers Face Drought

Farmers in Northeast Missouri are feeling the effects of national tariffs and an unusually harsh drought, hurting corn, soybean and livestock farmers.

Missouri corn production has declined 23 percent since 2017. Soybean production has also decreased nearly 8 percent since last year. In Northeast Missouri, pasture and hayground make up a majority of farmland, but soybeans and corn are the most popular cash crops.

Michael Seipel, agricultural science department chair at Truman State University, said the national tariffs and trade disputes with other nations are taking a toll on the farmers growing goods in the United States, even locally in Northeast Missouri. He said the trade disputes have dramatically affected the prices of soybeans in particular because about half of soybeans grown in the U.S. are exported to other countries, with one third of U.S. grown soybeans being exported to China.

Seipel said seasonal conditions and the tariffs have created a $2.10 drop in price for soybean bushels since their peak in late May.

“Part of that [price drop] is seasonal,” Seipel said. “Once the market is comfortable that the yields will be there and the crop size is going to be adequate, prices often decline through the summer, so that’s not totally unexpected. But, again, a significant amount of that decline was due specifically to the concern over the impact on trade with China.”

Seipel said the agricultural market tends to be volatile because there are a lot of supply changes. He said fluctuation in supply can occur because of drought, flooding, other weather conditions and other factors.

Seipel said to help address fluctuation and diminish the financial impacts of tariffs, the United States Department of Agriculture has introduced an assistance package for farmers. This package targets seven commodities and will cost $4.7 billion. Soybean farmers will receive the majority of the funding from this assistance program, an expected $3.6 billion, because they are the most heavily affected by the tariffs. The program will offer farmers $1.65 for every bushel of soybeans produced. The USDA has stated that additional payments could be given if they are warranted by December.

Zachary Erwin, field specialist in livestock at the University of Missouri Extension in Adair County, said the tariff is affecting livestock farmers the least.

“Most [of] Northern Missouri is diversified producers, and while there are some, there are not a lot [of farmers] that are just strictly livestock, strictly field crops,” Erwin said.  

Farmers being more diversified is usually a way to ease seasonal risks a farmer might face.

This past farming season not only endured financial pressures with the agriculture tariff put in place but Northern Missouri has also been experiencing different levels of drought.

“When you look at trade barriers from a field crop standpoint and drought, not only from low field crop production but also from a livestock standpoint, North Missouri in 2018 has been hit just extremely hard,” Erwin said.

For more, pick up a copy of The Index on Thursday, Sept. 13.