By Chris Adams

For officials in the main agricultural commodity groups, the Trump administration has offered a lot of things – but the only constant is unpredictability.

And “to say it’s unpredictable is an understatement,” said John Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Pork Board.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, representatives of the corn, soybean and pork industries detailed the trade chaos of the past two years, describing the current impact on their growers and producers and speculating what might happen next.

From the National Corn Growers Association, CEO Jon Doggett said that trade disputes have lowered corn prices by 20 cents per bushel from June 2018 to May 2019.

From the National Pork Board, Johnson noted that U.S. pork faces a 72% tariff in China – well above the 12% in place before the current trade wars heated up.

He said increased tariffs with China have cost the U.S. pork industry $8 per animal – $1 billion in total losses.

From the U.S. Soybean Export Council, CEO Jim Sutter talked about how the U.S. soybean industry patiently worked the Chinese market, opening offices in that country in 1982, finally breaking through with shipments 13 years later and seeing exports there take off in the 20 years that followed.

Now, they’re seeing those shipments tumble – and they want to get the situation resolved. The three officials described the specific trade actions the Trump administration has taken in the past two years.

The farm sector has generally been supportive of President Donald Trump. But the trade actions – and the uncertainty they bring – are beginning to try farmers’ patience.

“Most farmers voted for the president,” Doggett said. “The longer these things keep going, the harder it is for them to continue to do so.” He mentioned a farmer he had recently spoken with: “He was happy to be a patriot. He didn’t want to be a martyr.”