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Ohio Soy Industry Considers Impacts of U.S.-China Tariffs

photo of aerial photo of Northern Ohio farmland

The $50 billion in tariffs already announced by the U.S. and China could have a big impact on Ohio farmers.

The U.S. tariffs on aerospace and machinery announced this week were met with China’s proposed tariffs on everything from soybeans to airplanes.

China accounts for about 40 percent of Ohio’s agricultural exports, and 30 percent of the state’s $1.4 billion soybean industry.

Jeff Magyar, a farmer from Ashtabula County who sits on the board of the Ohio Soybean Council, says his family’s farm would be hurt by the tariffs from both countries.

“This will greatly affect the farm income [and] everything from the fertilizer supplier to the truck driver to the local diner. Operating margins are slim due to the farm economy. And at the same time, implements like tractors and combines will be increasing due to the tariffs on steel and aluminum.”

Magyar says uncertainty about the tariffs is already impacting the soybean market, but he’s likely to stay with the crop at least through next season since it’s still more valuable than corn, wheat or rye.

Ian Sheldon, an Ohio State professor of Agricultural Marketing, Trade and Policy, says there are other ways to handle trade issues with China that would not impact Ohio’s farmers.

“It would be much better done through the multilateral organization, the WTO. And I’m really concerned that this will undermine this institution. And it could go beyond the U.S. and China and involve other countries eventually.”

Sheldon adds that a “trade war” could cede market share to Brazil and Argentina – the next largest producers of soybeans after the U.S.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.