U.S. 2nd District Rep. Brett Guthrie told a panel of regional farmers Friday morning that President Donald Trump was expressing confidence, as recently as Wednesday, that this trade war with China would be resolved with a trade deal in the near future.
"My estimate, based on what the president said, is it will be soon," Guthrie told a small group during a roundtable on agriculture at Owensboro Grain headquarters on East Second Street.
But even as Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican, was speaking, events in the outside world were casting shadows over Guthrie's optimism. Before the meeting began, China announced it intends to increase tariffs of between 5 percent and 10 percent on U.S. products. Soybeans tariffs will increase by 5 percent and tariffs on other U.S. agricultural products will increase by 10 percent.
After the Chinese announcement, Trump went to Twitter to say U.S. companies were "ordered" by him to look for markets for products outside China and to stop manufacturing their products in China.
Although Trump's tweets were not known to the panel when the roundtable was held, Guthrie told farmers the latest threat of Chinese tariff's on U.S. goods was likely part of the trade negotiation process.
"The president on Wednesday said he felt they were close to a deal," Guthrie said. "... I wish I had an answer as to when that will be settled, but the president seemed optimistic on Wednesday."
The trade war had the farmers at Friday's roundtable rattled, with some saying the loss of Chinese markets for soybeans could become permanent if the trade war drags on for too long. Some members of the panel also mentioned it was difficult to plan for next season's planting while not knowing if there would be a Chinese market for soybeans.
"Our concern is, when you lose market share, it's very hard to get it back," said John Wright, Owensboro Grain's executive vice president.
Later, Wright said it's "very disheartening to see what's going on, because we're caught in the middle of all of this."
Guthrie said Trump "believes we have to take a stand on China," mentioning Chinese trade practices such as allegedly stealing intellectual property. Bloomberg News says China is known for "counterfeiting famous brands and stealing trade secrets to pressuring companies to share technology with Chinese companies to gain access to China's vast market."
The Trump Administration announced in July it would provide $16 billion in subsidies to farmers affected by the trade war. Daviess County farmer Rod Kuegel said the payments were only a short-term solution.
"As we lose that (Chinese) market, we aren't going to get it back," Kuegel said, adding that farmers are worried about the "ability to raise corn and soybeans two years from now when we can't sell anything overseas."
Daviess County farmer Sylvester Fischer said "China doesn't really need our grain right now" because of a crash in the country's hog stock. "They've got the time to bargain with us."
In a written statement Friday afternoon, Lauren Gaydos, Guthrie's director of communications, said: "Congressman Guthrie shares President Trump’s concerns about the trade imbalance with China but remains hopeful that some sort of trade deal can be reached."
Hemp production was discussed, as some members of the panel worried about how long the market for cannibidol (CBD) oil would last.
"The question is, will it be here a year from now?" Guthrie said.
"It will be here a year from now," Kuegel said. "This year it's $50 (a bottle). Next year, it will be $5."
Clint Hardy, Daviess County's extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, said a Food and Drug Administration study on the benefits of CBD would help hemp producers. The alleged benefits of CBD are many, but the FDA said in a July statement that CBD products "are not approved by the FDA for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease. Consumers should beware purchasing and using any such products."
"We hope it will be the next Tylenol," Hardy said. "... If this stuff is going to be a realistic consumer product ... we've got to get the FDA regulating these products, or at least doing research on it.
"I think for this to be a longevity crop that has potential for farmers ... we have to get these products under FDA jurisdiction," Hardy said.
After the roundtable, Guthrie said he has met with FDA directors on the issue, and now that it is legal to produce hemp, rules on how CDB is regulated with have to be determined.
"The FDA is going to have a role," Guthrie said. "We are trying to figure that out."
Guthrie also said he plans to work with FDA officials so that CBD doesn't become over-regulated.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse