Thursday, November 29, 2018

Measured against reality, he's shrinking rapidly

ADITI ROY, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: This spring, Richard Fontenot planted 1,700 acres of soybeans on his farm. But come harvest
time, rain pounded his crops for days on end, damaging much of his crop. Nearby grain elevators already filled up to near capacity because of the Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans wouldn`t accept his soybeans because they were too damaged.

RICHARD FONTENOT, LOUISIANA SOYBEAN FARMER: It`s almost emotional. It`s an emotional roller coaster.

ROY: In the end, the fourth generation farmer was forced to let 60 percent of his crop rot in the field.

FONTENOT: If the commercial elevators up river had no room to store it, we could harvest it but no place to dump the trucks. So we had to leave it out in the field.

ROY: But bad weather is only one problem facing farmers across the U.S.

U.S. soybean farmers usually export a quarter of the crop to China. That market has virtually disappeared. The glut has pushed prices down from about $9.84 a bushel during planting season, to $8.60 at harvest.

FONTENOT: For in this operation itself, we probably have about $8.50, $8.25 a bushel tied into making the crop. After discount this year, we`re going to be selling it for about $6.50, $6.25 a bushel.

ROY: As a result, Fontenot will lose about $300,000 this year and can`t store the crop because the grain elevators are full and the crop too damaged.

To make matters even worse, many farmers can`t even access the Trump administration`s aid to ease the tariff impact because they are not eligible for the dollars if their crops are still in the ground.

FONTENOT: We had no exports because of the effects of some negotiations. Those effects carried all the way back into the field.

ROY: To ease the loss, Louisiana Representative Ralph Abraham just introduced a bill which would allow farmers with unharvested crop to access trade aid. Fontenot says that`s a good idea, but argues for longstanding relief farmers need enduring trade relationships.

FONTENOT: We have to do things as a country and as a nation to protect and things — and maintain us being sustainable for years to come. And trade agreements are one of those things.

ROY: It`s not just farmers here in the south who were hurting. A new Fed report shows that farm bankruptcies are also on the rise in the Upper Midwest.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Aditi Roy, Ville Platte, Louisiana.

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