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Montana Farmers See Big Gains With New China Trade Deal

Hay bales in a field.

Trade with China boomed in the U.S. last year after a new trade deal went into effect, one which the Montana Farm Bureau says was great news for Montana farmers. The deal was crafted to offset losses from former President Trump’s trade war with China.

Montana Farm Bureau Executive Vice President John Youngberg said that when the U.S. signed its “Phase One” agreement with China last year, he was expecting it to mostly benefit the corn and soybean industries. Those industries don’t have a big presence in Montana. But Youngberg was pleasantly surprised.

"It's been a huge, huge boost to the ag economy in the United States and in Montana."

Montana wheat and pulse crops — including peas, chickpeas and lentils — did really well in China last year because of the trade deal. Montana sent about 40 million bushels of wheat and 16 million pounds of pulse crops to China according to Youngberg. Lentil exports alone increased sevenfold over 2019.

Though agriculture exports from the U.S. to China were at a record-high $27.2 billion last year, they were roughly $6 billion short of the target China had agreed to. U.S. exports to China still saw a significant jump from pre-trade-war numbers.

Montana farmers received a vital lifeline throughfederal subsidies last year, which were also meant to help offset losses from the trade war that began in 2018. The trade deal is a better way for Montana farmers to make ends meet, Youngberg said.

"We would rather be getting a check from somebody for buying our products than storing our products."

He added Montana wheat exports to Canada also saw a big boost, as the country had increased its own exports to China past what it could fill.

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