U.S. farmers are struggling to find storage for crops that would usually be sold in overseas markets, with some being forced to leave produce rotting in fields as storage costs rise amid the escalating trade war with China, according to Reuters.
Some farmers who have been unable to sell their products thanks to the Chinese tariffs have begun plowing their crops under, burying them under soil in fields because there is not enough room to store them in storage facilities or because it is now too costly to store the grain in elevators, or silos, Reuters reported.
The cost of storing grain in elevators is reportedly two to three times higher than it was at this time last year.
The farmers say they are unable to sell their grain to China due to Beijing’s 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans, a punitive measure that came in retaliation for duties imposed by Washington.
The problem is most acute for soybean farmers.
China, the largest importer of soybeans in the world, turned to Brazil in an attempt to meet domestic demand after the start of the trade war. Chinese purchases generally make up about 60% of all US soybean exports, according to the Farm Credit Administration. Those exports have practically stopped since the tariffs were introduced, according to Business Insider.
In Louisiana, as much as 15% of this year’s soybean crop has been plowed under or is too damaged to sell, according to data analyzed by Louisiana State University staff and cited by Reuters.
The Trump administration has started a program of subsidies meant to lessen the impact of his trade war on US agriculture.
In August, the administration launched a $4.7 billion initial investment plan aimed at helping those farming corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat.
“I’ve never seen things this bad,” soybean farmer Russell Altom, who is senior vice president of agricultural lending at an Arkansas bank, told Reuters. “I know several farmers who hired lawyers, to see if they can sue over the pricing and fees issues.”
Farmer Richard Fontenot told Reuters that “no one wants” the grains.
“I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
U.S. farmers planted 89.1 million acres of soybeans this year before China, one of the country’s top soybean consumers, imposed the steep tariff, according to Reuters.