Rick Kimberley, president of Kimberley Farm Inc., speaks during an interview with Xinhua at his home in Maxwell, Iowa, the United States, on March 17, 2019. It would be a timely piece of good news for American farmers if the United States and China could reach a deal to defuse bilateral trade tensions before the Spring planting season, Rick Kimberley told Xinhua in a recent interview. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
by Xinhua writers Yang Shilong, Xu Jing
DES MOINES, the United States, March 31 (Xinhua) -- It would be a timely piece of good news for American farmers if the United States and China could reach a deal to defuse bilateral trade tensions before the Spring planting season, a U.S. soybean farmer has said.
"We're gonna be starting to plant in mid-April, mid-May. So we hope that the decision is made (before that), and then that will help us, that would give us some time to make our adjustments where we wanted to," Rick Kimberley, president of Kimberley Farms Inc., told Xinhua in a recent interview.
STOP THE SLOW-BURN
"Right now the kind of estimate is less soybeans to be planted and so a lot of our neighbors will do the same. Some are still kind of waiting," said Kimberley at his family farm in Maxwell, a half-hour drive from Des Moines, capital of the U.S. midwestern state of Iowa.
Kimberley has been widely known both in the United States and China since Chinese President Xi Jinping (then vice president) visited his family farm in 2012.
"It's affecting all of us, this is not good for us. Everybody here wants that worked out. I think it's a slow-burn, it's affecting us slowly. I mean it's affecting our income," said Kimberley.
The silver-haired farmer had forward sold some of his soybeans before the market reacted and went down when the large crop was caught in the middle of the tariff increases between the two countries last year.
"For what we haven't sold, you know, of course the market dropped significantly," Kimberley said, adding it did not feel like it dropped "as much as it actually did" because the administration under President Donald Trump, who initiated the tariffs, came up with "some subsidies" for soybean farmers.
However, Kimberley said "we as farmers, we would just sell for the market. We don't like to receive the government subsidies because we'd rather sell to the market and do it that way."
As the market continues to be slow going into this year, American farmers, soybean producers in particular, will have to try to control their operating costs and day-to-day living expenses, he said.
"So a lot of those things, we just try to control our costs the best we can. Every household has its budget. They'll probably try to see where they can cut some corners there. Basically, that's what we're down to now," he added.
Farmers are always prepared to withstand some down pressure as a result of bad weather, but not such "kind of artificially made by government policies," Kimberley said, adding he could hardly imagine how U.S. agriculture would suffer if the tariff tensions linger for another year or two.
"If you have a long enough period where you're not successful or you're not being profitable, well, then you have to make a decision," he said.
"Agriculture in the United States has evolved over time. We are going to have fewer farmers in the future. And so this might be another time," he said. "In the 1980s, we had a real change in landscape as far as many farmers went out of business because of difficult times. Many of them went on and got retrained and got jobs in the city. And some were just older and decided to retire."
WORKING AS EQUALS
"Everybody hopes both of our countries (reach) an agreement, and our trade gets back to normal and even becomes better," said Kimberley, who has been to China 19 times in recent years to talk about precision farming and other tricks of his trade.
After all, China is now the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports while the United States is China's largest supplier, he said, adding the two countries' agriculture cooperation has actually entered a new level from his own experiences.
North China's Hebei Province, Iowa's sister state, is building a farm based on the model of the Kimberley's farm, showcasing their ways of farming that include everything from grid sampling soils to using GPS and biotechnology seeds.
"No problem can not be worked out through negotiations and talks and friendship," he said. "We just need to kind of keep communicating and understand each country's position. China will have their perspective on their side of the world. And we have ours on our side of the world, but we can still be friends."
"In the United States, I guess we need to realize that China has developed into a very strong economic power now, we need to work as equals," he said. "I think the world is a better place with China and the United States leading the way, and, you know, working back and forth as the two largest economies, and raising everybody up."
Kimberley suggested Americans should visit China and see with their own eyes what is "actually going on" in the rising Asian country.
"China is not like 40 years ago and the cities are very modern," he said. "Most people would be amazed if they saw other developments in China now. People there doing their daily job and going to work every day, are no difference from here."
The 69-year-old farmer was very glad he could help promote the agricultural cooperation between the two countries as "a citizen ambassador of friendship."
"I want them (people in both countries) to know we're friends. There will always be possibly some little differences. You just have to be good about talking issues out, reaching across the waters and being friends," he said. "Just like in an ocean that has rough waves, I'd like to be something that kind of can help smooth those waves out, just to make a relationship better and stronger."
(Xinhua correspondents Miao Zhuang in Chicago and Li Muzi in New York also contributed to the story.)