Are American farmers losing confidence in a China trade deal?

While persistent rains across the central U.S. have stalled agricultural planting this spring, among the nation’s farmers there is something else being sowed: doubt on whether the U.S. will achieve a trade deal with China.

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In a non-scientific survey FOX Business conducted with 687 farmers, nearly a third – 32.4 percent – now say they are “losing confidence” that the U.S. and China can reach a deal.  It was the largest share of respondents to the question.  Meanwhile, about 30.3 percent remain “confident,” and 28.7 percent describe themselves as “not confident” of a deal.

“I hope the administration hears us,” said one respondent.  “We need a deal done -- and done soon.”

Another added: “I have been patient and supportive of the trade and tariff battle … (But) patience is running out, we need trade.”

HELP FROM THE FARM BUREAU

FOX Business distributed a survey to approximately 50 farmers in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.  The Illinois Farm Bureau received the survey – and volunteered to forward it to thousands of statewide members.  Nearly 700 responded in all, providing broad and unique insights into the thinking of farmers on the trade impasse.

The survey was created following the administration’s decision to raise tariffs on China.  U.S. negotiators said China began backpedaling on promises amid negotiations.

In addition, nearly nine in 10 survey respondents, 89 percent, say farmers have been “disproportionately impacted” in the tariff battle.

Six in ten also say the trade negotiations influence their overall opinions of the administration.

“While Trump keeps saying that we are close to a deal,” answered one respondent, “but it seems like we are still very far apart.  Agriculture is going to suffer even more before something changes.”

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

Despite the concern, however, still more than half – 54.6 percent – believe trade negotiations will still be a “win for the U.S. and farmers.”

“Hold their feet to the fire,” contributed a farmer.  “If we give in after taking this hit, I will be pissed.”

“The trade situation sucks for my family, (but) sometimes what's best for the country isn't the best for you,” said another.

DOWN ON THE FARM

After another night of rain in central Illinois, grain farmer Lynn Rohrscheib, who heads the Illinois Soybean Association, postponed planting yet again on Wednesday.

While she’s hoping to get some seed in the ground of her family’s 7,000 acres later in the afternoon, Rohrscheib laments the $600,000 hit the operation took last year as a consequence of falling grain prices amid the tariff fight.

“A lot of operations can’t take that kind of a hit,” she told FOX Business.  “And we can’t hold that on very long.”

Various respondents suggested the Chinese could be trying to push the president into election year negotiations, perhaps achieving more favorable terms.

“The Chinese are going to drag this out,” added another respondent.  “I look for them to push President Trump into an election year showdown to resolve the trade war.”

Then, it could potentially become a political issue as well.

Nearly 59 percent of farmers participating in the survey say U.S. trade policy could impact their vote for president, or their willingness to head to the polls.