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Farmers assess another difficult year as harvest season winds down

MASON CITY, Minn. (KTTC) – Today at North Iowa Community College, experts from Iowa State University gave their outlook on where the agriculture industry is heading going into the new year.

“2019 has been a pretty rough one because of the weather and the wet conditions we’ve had but it’s also been tough to market,” said Iowa State professor and crop marketing specialist Chad Hart. “Farmers have found prices challenged because of the issues with ethanol, because of the issues with exports.”

One of those issues has been the ongoing trade war with China. The recent outbreak of African Swine Fever in China has presented an opportunity for US agriculture that gives more incentive to strike an agreement.

“The amount of the pigs that China lost to the disease is larger than the entire US inventory. It’s caused significant pork shortage and super high pork prices,” said ISU professor and extension economist Wendong Zhang. “That’s why China currently exempted tariffs on soybeans and pork from the United States.”

While the US has tried to find other markets, Zhang believes China’s growing economy makes them a vital trading partner.

“China has the population and income so it will continue to be an indispensable trading partner with US agriculture,” said Zhang.

While new markets take time to establish, new uses for an existing crop can increase demand.

“The general outlook is that 2020 is going to be another rough year but there is reason for optimism if we can find some demand growth somewhere, especially from the international marketplace, that could boost the ag economy,” said Hart.

He also says that market facilitation payments from the government have kept many farms afloat and there have been talks of more in 2020. So there is relief, for now.

Alex Tejada

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