Frigid winter, soggy spring, trade war hammer Iowa farmers

Agriculture

Travis Spevacek revs up his tractor. He and his wife Erinn prepare the corn. Normally, they’d be out in the fields, tending to their soybean crops at their farm in Solon, Iowa. But frigid a winter and soggy spring are preventing them from planting one of their biggest products.

“We can’t get our crops in,” Erinn Spevacek said. When asked why they hadn’t been in the field, she answered “due to the weather.”

“We fought ice, trying to feed cattle in ice and calves alive through ice that lasted way too long, into a soggy spring,” Travis Spevacek said.

The Spevaceks said water-logged fields are setting them back. “And now we’re about 6-8 weeks behind on planting.”

John Heisdorffer’s planter just sits dormant in his shed. “This planter should be in the field working,” Heisdorffer said. “It’s been too wet for the last five weeks to plant any soybeans.”

Iowa farmers like Heisdorffer and the Spevaceks are getting hammered financially. “Now, we’re sitting here in the red.”

Uncooperative weather, the government shutdown, and the trade war with China are colliding at the same time to hit the state’s soybean market.

“I farmed for 47 years and never had this problem before,” Heisdorffer said.

China is the number one importer of soybeans. Heisdorffer said the trade war hurts him more than anything else. “Tariffs are the biggest thing.” When asked is this the worst market he has seen, Heisdorffer responded “I would say yes.”

The Trump Administration recently announcing a $16 billion bailout on top of last year’s 12-billion.

Grant Kimberely, Executive Director of Market Development with the Iowa Soybean Association, said sales for soybeans are down 25 percent this year. He said the subsidies will help. “It will get us a little bit closer to bridging the gap.”

But Kimberley and farmers like Heisdorffer and the Spevaceks said they need long-term solutions. “Sixteen-billion, what’s that going to be for Travis and Erinn Spevacek? It’s not reliable for any farmer and it’s not sustainable for the country.”

The Spevaceks said their farm could be at risk if business keeps getting worse. All the farmers we talked with said they want the trade war to end and the weather to improve so they can start making money again.

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