Trade | KCUR

Trade

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

By some measures, the United States' economy is in great shape. President Donald Trump touts record low unemployment as evidence that things have never been better. His argument is bolstered by historic stock market increases over the last year.

And if Esther George has one word to describe her 2020 economic outlook, it would be "positive."

The first phase of a new trade agreement between the United States and China is scheduled for a White House signing ceremony Wednesday and many in the agriculture community are hoping the deal will bring some relief to the farm economy.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / The Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Personal income growth in Kansas is below the national average, due in large part to troubles in the agriculture industry, which makes up about 40% percent of the state’s economy.

Kansas farmers face an expanding drought and low commodity prices, though a break in the ongoing tariff dispute may bring those up.

“Farmers have bills to pay,” Kansas Wheat Commission CEO Justin Gilpin said. “Ultimately, what we need to do is hopefully see commodity prices somewhat bottom out here and get trade going.”

The blow also has been softened by a total of $732 million in federal trade-bailout money in 2019 alone, which Gilpin calls a “lifeline” for some Kansas farmers.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

A tentative agreement easing trade restrictions with China seems like great news for farmers, who’ve been pummeled by the trade war. Some farmers, though, are skeptical. They worry that ag exports will suffer for years, and they've got history to back them up.

Prices for the corn and soybeans started rising last week, on rumors of a possible trade deal. Good news for Tom Kreisel, who farms near tiny Houstonia, Missouri.

“The last couple of days, they'd been up,” says Kreisel. “But they had took a nosedive before that, so we need to make that back.”

Frank Morris / KCUR and NPR

Most farmers haven't had a single good year since President Trump took office, and Trump’s policies on trade, immigration and ethanol are part of the problem.

Yet farmers, who broadly supported Trump in 2016, are sticking with him as the impeachment inquiry moves forward.

“You see everyone circling their wagons now, and the farm community is no different in that,” says John Herath, the news director at Farm Journal.

On a hot September day, five Japanese men arrived at Rod Pierce’s central Iowa farm. They represented feed mills and livestock cooperatives, and were there to see the corn they may eventually buy. 

Pierce invited them to walk among his rows of corn, climb into the cab of an 8-head combine and poke their heads into one his empty grain storage bins. 

U.S. farmers have long depended on foreign buyers for some of their corn, soybeans, pork and other products. And federal officials have used some agricultural commodities as tools of diplomacy for decades.

But as the Trump administration has pursued hard-line moves with major trading partners, especially China, farmers have found themselves with huge surpluses — and on the receiving end of government aid.

Advice For High School Graduates

May 22, 2019

Graduation season is upon us, which means celebration and cliché advice. But a lot of the age-old wisdom doesn't quite ring true in today's changing world. Hear about the helpful and not-so-helpful nuggets doled out to high school seniors. Plus, Kansas Citians share their own tips.

Guests:

Montgomery City Division of Solid Waste Services / Flickr - CC

Kansas City recyclers take heart, for now.

Despite reports that some waste companies in the U.S. are burning recycled paper and plastic or sending it to landfills, processors in the metro are still finding ways to market recycled material.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

The U.S. trade war with China, now approaching a year, is often framed as hurting manufacturing and agriculture the most. But that’s mainly collateral damage in an international struggle over power and technology that has its roots in the Cold War, when China was still considered a largely undeveloped country.

SpaceX

As President Donald Trump prepared to address the nation about the partial shutdown of the federal government, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran huddled with staffers this week talking about rocket launches.

They fretted over whether the furlough of workers at NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration could force the delay of satellite and experimental rocket launches.

Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State and a former Kansas congressman from Wichita, spoke about some of the key issues he is dealing with as the country’s leader of foreign policy during a brief interview Thursday with KMUW. 

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Musical chairs

After years in the Kansas Legislature, it’s natural that Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly would turn to people she’s known there to start filling out key spots in her administration.

For starters, she picked Will Lawrence as her chief of staff. It’s a powerful, right-hand position to a governor. The chief of staff can control access to the governor and play an important role in setting priorities. Lawrence has been chief of staff to Democratic Senate Leader Anthony Hensley.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

The cable guy

President Donald Trump is making noises about issuing an executive order that would undo birthright citizenship in the country. He contends he has the authority, through executive order, to deny U.S. citizenship to children born in the country if their parents are here illegally.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

We hardly knew ye

Well, we do know Steve Watkins is a veteran.

But much of the rest of the biography he’s touted in his race for Congress has come under question.

Last week, The Kansas City Star tore down his claims of building a tiny business into something massive.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump has reached a tentative trade deal with Mexico, and now the focus of tariff talks shifts to Canada.

It’s a high-stakes situation for Kansas industry because Canada is the top export market for the state.

Kansas exports totaled more than $11 billion in 2017, led by agricultural products, aircraft and airplane parts. Nearly $2.5 billion of those exports went to Canada. The other partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico, was the second biggest market for Kansas exports, at nearly $2 billion.

The United States and Mexico announced this week there’s a tentative deal in their renegotiation of the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

A new book, "Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies and the Destruction of Mexico," looks at the connections between the agricultural and food trade policies that the policy has brought about.

Harvest season isn’t far away for corn and soybean farmers, whose crops are worth less now than when they planted in the spring due to the United States’ trade war.

“We don't know what to think from one day to the next. It's hard to plan,” said Duane Hund, a farmer in Kansas’ Flint Hills.

Forty percent of farmers polled this summer by Farm Futures said President Donald Trump’s trade policy is permanently damaging U.S. agriculture. The scrambling of global markets is just beginning, Hund said, and pointed to the 1980 Russian grain embargo as an example.

Luke X Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Kansas GOP candidates faces tough Democratic — and Republican — challengers.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3/NPR

The corn and soybeans growing in Glenn Brunkow’s fields in the rolling Flint Hills north of Wamego, Kansas, got some much needed rain recently and look healthy.

Brunkow has reason to expect a good harvest, but the way things are looking globally, he’ll lose money on the crop. Trade disputes with China, Mexico and Canada threaten to slash U.S. food exports by billions. About half the soybean crop goes overseas, most of that to China — and since mid-April, soybean prices have plunged about 20 percent and corn about 15 percent.

A blossoming trade war between the United States and China could have a big impact on Kansas farmers and businesses.

President Donald Trump has made good on his threat to slap an additional 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. In turn, Chinese officials have committed to retaliatory tariffs in the same amount. But while U.S. tariffs are focused on tech products, Chinese tariffs will likely focus on agricultural goods.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farmers at Betty’s Truck Stop near Sweet Springs, Missouri, took their coffee with a side of bad news early Wednesday morning.

In response to the Trump administration's threats to place tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — including farm implements — China threatened to sanction $50 billion in U.S. exports, this time targeting airplanes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.

“Beans are down 50 cents overnight, and corn’s down 14 because of this trade thing with China,” Jim Bridges said as he took a seat at a large table in the center of the restaurant. Bridges, who grows corn and soybeans, made a few calculations and reckoned his potential losses at about $50,000.

China has announced its intent to add additional tariffs to 106 U.S. products, including several of Kansas’ top agricultural exports.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas politicians are closely watching developing trade policies with an eye to whether they could start a trade war that might hurt industries in the state that rely on exports.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

“NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” Trump said while campaigning for office, “but certainly ever signed in this country,”

Erica Hunzinger / KCUR 89.3

Jason Kander spoke to the National Farmers Union conference in his official capacity as the head of a voting rights nonprofit. Yet Monday’s hometown address by the Democrat, which ranged from U.S. trade policy to college affordability, sounded more like a stump speech.

Kander didn’t directly address whether he’d run for office again, telling reporters he’s “focused on making sure we’re still able to hold elections.”

“Then maybe one day I’ll be in one” he added.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Honorary consuls are essentially volunteer diplomats.

 

“You’re representing the country and promoting the country when possible,” Lebert Shultz told KCUR’s Central Standard guest-host Brian Ellison.

 

Shultz is the honorary consul of South Africa to Kansas and Missouri. Born in New York, he moved to the Midwest in 1960. After graduating from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1967, he practiced law in Kansas City for 12 years. Beginning in 1979, he worked in Wichita as a corporate attorney for two decades. It was during this time that he found himself in South Africa during the late 1980’s on business.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback took a secretive, state-funded trip to Israel a month ago, but we only know that because The Hutchinson News broke the story on Oct. 1.

The paper reports that Governor Brownback, his wife, daughter and a few state officials got to Israel on Aug. 26 and were there through Sept. 2. 

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