Dave Burrier, 67 years old, runs his tractor through the fields by carefully following a GPS map to plant as much corn as possible in the middle of the rye littered the ground.
He hopes to get a yield massive crops in the Maryland rural to get through this year of course uncertain, disturbed by the pandemic COVID-19, and the resumption of trade tensions between the United States and China.
“We have suffered an erosion of prices as they are below the cost of production,” says the farmer to the AFP. “We need to find a way to make a profit,” he continued, stressing that the cultivation of maize is not easy.
In January, the growers of corn and soy, two crops star in the United States, had yet a hope for a year better, when Washington and Beijing have reached an agreement putting an end to their trade war.
Beijing was then committed to buy for $ 50 billion in additional us agricultural products.
But even before he reaped the fruits of this treaty, the new coronavirus has struck.
The pandemic has not only disrupted the transportation and operations in slaughterhouses but still undermined demand, while the ethanol plants and biofuels have closed, depriving them of revenues.
The period “is a bit morose”, recognizes the wife of Dave, Linda Burrier, who grows soybeans.
However, she was not discouraged. “The farmers are the people most loyal to that,” she said.
But in the face of an overabundance of supply, the u.s. department of Agriculture estimates that the average price of maize will fall to its lowest level in 14 years for the season 2020-2021.
The price of soybean is also expected to decline.
And despite government subsidies, the producers of corn and soybeans will face a loss of revenue of $ 8.5 billion to $ 10.2 billion, according to a recent study from the universities of Illinois and Ohio.
The administration Trump had released $ 28 billion in 2018 and 2019 to help farmers affected by the trade war. She also pledged 16 billion extra this year to compensate for the new crisis.
The current situation sadly echoed by the 1980s, writes Dave Burrier, a decade that he would have preferred to forget. At the time, the low price of basic products combined with the burden of debt and an embargo on the grain against the soviet Union had ruined the american farmers.
“It gives me a thrill, nothing to talk about,” he says.
A lot of things have changed in forty years.
The computer screens in his tractor display detailed measures to follow its cultures, when his father used a pen and paper.
The soviet Union has disappeared but american farmers are once again, in part, at the mercy of a foreign power: China.
During the commercial war, the asian giant has not hesitated to take measures of reprisals on the soy and the pork americans, resulting in a fall of one-half of total exports in 2018.
The export sales were in part recovered in the past year, but the renewed tensions with China fear the worst.
Donald Trump accuses China of concealing the origins of the novel coronavirus.
“Agriculture in America is very vulnerable at this time, but if we have a good season, we should be able to get out of it this year,” nods approval Arlan Suderman, chief economist of the commodities at INTL FCStone.
For his part, Danielle Bauer, union leader of the federation of soybean in Delaware and Maryland, explains that farmers of the region have looked for growth opportunities elsewhere, increasing their exports to Taiwan and is expecting an increased demand for soybean oil to high oleic acid content, a variety grown exclusively in the United States.
But “there’s a lot of uncertainty,” she said.
The couple Burrier, who also plants wheat, earns a lot of money by selling hay to a horse racing track nearby.
It can also count on the good performance of the corn of the past year: the double of the county average.
But at age 60, Linda does not have any illusions: the impact of the pandemic will likely force them to delay their retirement. “It’s going to have to wait, I don’t know, 5 or 10 years,” advance-t-it. “If we physically”.