Soggy fields leave Midwestern farmers with few good answers

In this May 29, 2019 photo, a deer runs through a field which is partially flooded near Anderson, Iowa. Thousands of Midwest farmers are trying to make decisions as they endure a spring like no other. It started with a continuation of poor prices for corn and soybeans that fell even further as tariffs imposed by the U.S. and China ratcheted higher. Next came flooding from melting snow followed by day after day of torrential rains that made planting impossible or flooded fields where plants were just starting to emerge.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is saying there’s a new deal with Mexico that provides for “large” sales of U.S. farm goods, but it doesn’t appear to exist.

In weekend tweets, the president announced that he had won the agreement to benefit America’s “great patriot farmers,” and that U.S. sales would begin “immediately.”

There isn’t any sign of that happening, however. Mexican officials denied that anything on agriculture was included in the deal on border security reached Friday to avert Trump’s threatened tariffs.

Additionally, the communique issued late Friday by the State Department — the U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration — makes no mention of agricultural trade as part of the agreement.

The joint declaration between the U.S. and Mexico released by the State Department late Friday makes no mention of agriculture, and officials from Mexico deny an agreement was reached on farm goods as part of the talks.

“Everything that was negotiated was in the joint statement,” said a Mexican official familiar with the discussions who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. When Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, was asked repeatedly Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether there was a new agricultural deal, she demurred, saying such trade between both countries should increase over time.

She referenced instead the potential impact of the separate United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which has yet to be approved by Congress.

“Is trade on agricultural products going to grow? Yes, it is going to grow, and it is going to grow without tariffs and with USMCA ratification,” Barcena said.

According to the office of the United States Trade Representative, Mexico bought $20 billion in U.S. agricultural goods last year, making it the United States’ second-largest ag export market.

Meanwhile, the constant rains this spring are forcing some farmers to give up hopes of planting any corn this spring and wonder if they’ll have any crops at all this year.

Just one-third of Ohio’s corn crop had been planted as of a week ago. In a typical year, farmers in the state would have nearly all of their corn fields planted. Only Indiana is further off pace than Ohio when it comes to delays in planting, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Farmer Kris Swartz said many farmers won’t be able afford another year like this one.

While Trump called off plans to impose a 5% tax on Mexican exports, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking to reporters Saturday in Fukuoka on the sidelines of a meeting of financial leaders of the Group of 20 major economies, urged China to follow suit and return to stalled negotiations.

“From our perspective of where we are now, it is a result of them backtracking on significant commitments,” Mnuchin said. “I don’t think it’s a breakdown in trust or good or bad faith. ... If they want to come back and complete the deal on the terms we were negotiating, that would be great.”

Mnuchin said he had no direct message to give to Yi, who has participated in the 11 rounds of talks so far on resolving the dispute between the world’s two largest economies over technology and trade.

He said there were no plans for trade talks in Washington or Beijing before Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are due to meet in Osaka for the G-20 summit on June 28-29.

“This will be a one-on-one with Gov. Yi to talk alone about the trade issues,” Mnuchin said. But he added, “I would expect the main progress will be at the G-20 meetings of the presidents.”

The Trump administration began slapping tariffs on imports of Chinese goods nearly a year ago, accusing Beijing of using predatory means to lend Chinese companies an edge in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles. Those tactics, the U.S. contends, include hacking into U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, forcing foreign companies to hand over sensitive technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market and unfairly subsidizing Chinese tech firms.

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