MANTUA, Ohio — While most Americans have had to deal with more than a year of economic uncertainty through the pandemic there is a group that has had to deal with it much longer, our nation's farmers. Caught in the middle of a trade war with China they watched as orders from their number one buyer of U.S. soybeans ground to a halt.
Some like Portage County farmer Chuck Sayre were in an unenviable position he told News 5 in 2019.
"Everything we plant right now, every seed we put in the ground we're taking a loss on right now," Sayre said. "We can't sell our product for the prices and come out on top."
The nation was one year into that trade war with China and soybean prices had dropped from around $16 per bushel to below $8. After an agreement with China in early 2020, those shipments began again and after a year the price per bushel began rising into the $16 range to start May.
"The markets are great right now our cash sales are almost reaching an all-time high," Sayre said but the problem he and other farmers will tell you is they are profits that are going right back out as quickly as they come in.
"Most of our input costs for this year have doubled, our fertilizer has doubled our diesel fuel has doubled and you know in our busy time we go through like right now we'll go through over a tanker load of diesel a week so that effects our bottom-line drastically during our busy time right now," Sayre said.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told News 5 in March he's urging farmers to take advantage of USDA programs to help farmers move towards renewable energy sources found on the farm.
"I think that's why we're going to put an emphasis on expanding opportunities for renewable energy fuel to be used on the farm from the farm," Vilsack said. "And I think the USDA has an opportunity through a number of programs to be able to incentivize that type of activity. So I encourage that farmer to take a look at what ways in which renewable energy sources could be incorporated into their farming operation if they're not already using that."
Something that may work in the future Sayre says not necessarily now.
"Government seems to think that things happen tomorrow or the next day, it doesn't happen that quick. It takes to research it and plan it and test it and make sure that it's all going to work." Sayre said.
He said it's a move they can only afford to make in small increments.
"We can't gamble hey this might work it has to work or we don't have an income so we only dabble with small things at a time when we're going to change things. Maybe 10 or 15% of the farm you'll change just because you can't afford to take any more of a loss if it doesn't work," he said.