Illinois dairy farmers are among those feeling the effects of the ongoing trade wars. The chairman of the National Milk Producers Foundation recently requested more cash aid for dairy farmers across the country, who he said have missed out on more than $1 billion in profits since May.
Tasha Bunting, president of the Illinois Milk Producers Association, said tariffs on exports to Canada can reach up to 270-percent. That’s forcing some farmers to make tough decisions.
“We are seeing the closing of several dairies here in Illinois,” Bunting said. “We started the year with about 600 and we’re now down into the 560-range. Certainly, it’s having a far-ranging impact on our dairy farms across Illinois.”
Illinois is not near the top of the list of dairy exporters, moving about $41 million in products overseas in a typical year. However, the trade war still has an impact.
“Because we’re not a major exporter, a lot of our market is here domestically,” Bunting said. “What’s occurring is a backfill. Where we might have sent cheese or fluid milk to market in some of our surrounding states, they already have access to a surplus there. They’re not exporting to other countries.”
The USDA made more the $4.7 billion available to farmers to offset losses. About $127 million of that has been allocated for dairy farmers, but some say it might not be enough.
“What we’re hearing from some of our dairy farmers here in Illinois is that any assistance that might be coming from another aid package would be wonderful,” Bunting said, “but they’re optimistic that trade relations will improve and we can regain access to our largest export markets.”
There does appear to be some optimism about the Trump administration’s updated trade deals with both Canada and Mexico, with Mexico being the largest importer of U.S. cheese.
Even so, Bunting said the trade war could not have come at a worse time for Illinois dairy farmers.
“The price of milk is at its lowest point in a decade, so strange trade relations are aggravating already low margin prices for farmers.”