Trump Says China Could Buy More U.S. Corn Than Thought Possible

Source: By Shruti Singh, Mario Parker and Isis Almeida, Bloomberg • Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2019

U.S. corn sales to China have been part of the ongoing trade discussions between the nations, President Donald Trump said from the White House Oval Office Tuesday.

“These are not just, you know, let’s sell corn or let’s do this,” Trump said, referring to trade discussions. “It’s going to be selling corn, but a lot of it, a lot more than anyone thought possible,” he said, adding that the talks with China are “going very well.”

American farmers have been at the center of Trump’s trade war after Beijing last year slapped tariffs on a host of U.S. agricultural products. China has returned to the U.S. market for soybeans in recent months amid a temporary truce between the nations, but grain growers have been anxious to see evidence of demand for other crops. Negotiations are scheduled to continue in Washington through Friday as a March 1 deadline for higher U.S. tariffs approaches.

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While soybeans have grabbed most of the headlines about the farm tariffs, many other products are facing duties. In addition to corn, apricots, alfalfa, cherries, pistachios, pork and sorghum are some of the other items on the hit list.

Farmers are part of the base that helped drive Trump’s election victory. Amid slumping crop prices, support for the president has mostly stayed resilient. Still, there are some cracks starting to show. At an ethanol conference last month in Iowa, Jeff Altena, a farmer and a director of operations at Siouxland Energy Cooperative, said the “long rope” the agriculture community gave the administration may be starting to fray.

To calm his constituency, Trump has tweeted about his “love” for farmers. His administration delivered an aid package to help counter the blow from tariffs. More than 864,000 producers applied since the program’s debut in September, and payments have reached almost $8 billion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week.

A team from the USDA was part of the talks last week. The discussions were “productive,” Deputy Secretary Steve Censky told reporters at an industry conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, Monday. He declined to comment on whether there was an agreement for China to make more purchases of U.S. farm goods during the truce.

“Our goal in these negotiations when it comes to agriculture is not only get some very robust purchase commitments, but to really get the fundamental structural reforms that are necessary over the long term,” Censky said.

— With assistance by Mario Parker, and Isis Almeida