Federal aid to help farmers as trade war impacts profits

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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. – “I've been around farming since 2009," said soybean farmer Ben Lawson. "I've never experienced anything like this.”

While he started farming in the last decade, he's grown up on the farm. After graduating from Purdue, Lawson returned back home to the family farm, joining his father in the family business.

“Farming is a way of life, but it is also a business," Lawson said "At the end of the day, we’re here to make money. Last 5 years we haven't made very much.”

This summer business got even tougher, when an international trade war brought soybean prices down from more than $10 a bushel back in May, to just over $8 a bushel today, meaning farmers would make roughly $100,000 less for every 50,000 bushels sold.

“We were not really making a lot of money at $10," said Lawson. "But now when you take that away, we’re making slim or negative at this point.”

Now the U.S. Government has stepped in. This month, farmers can start applying for federal aid after a trade war has significantly lowered prices of commodities like soybeans. In August, the USDA announced it would release the first $4.7 billion of a $12 million aid package for farmers, allowing farmers like Lawson to apply to earn an extra $1.65 per bushel. Lawson says the aid will help tremendously, putting them back near the $10 per bushel price. However, he says he will only get half of it right after harvest.

"I've got bills to pay right now," Lawson said. "It's nice we're getting the 50%, but the other half, you know there's a lot more bills and I don't know when the other half will come.”

Despite the current struggle, farmers like Lawson are still holding out hope that in the long run, the tariffs will pay off.

“Time will tell, but right now we know that it's not helping us," Lawson said. "But when we go back to this issue 2 or 3 years from now, and we can look at the markets and we look back to what we had before the tariffs... we can look back and say yeah it absolutely helped or it didn't. It's that simple. But right now, it's put pressure on all of us to succeed a little bit better. It's made it a lot more difficult”

At Lawson's farm, corn is starting to be harvested this week and soybeans should be harvested in about 15 days.

We asked Purdue agricultural experts how this might affect your grocery bill, and they said the effects will be small but real.

You may notice slightly lower prices in oil based products and some products at the meat counter.

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