Crookston farmer Tim Dufault testified on Wednesday before the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee during a hearing in Washington, D.C. on the U.S.-China trade agreement.  Dufault said he was joined in testifying by representatives from several industries impacted by tariffs and the trade agreement.  “There were six witnesses today to testify and I was one of them,” said Dufault.  “I came from the ag sector.  They also had witnesses from the Aeronautic Industry, the President of MIT talking about research, a former U.S. Trade Rep attorney, an economist and another farmer from Illinois.  We took turns answering questions on different aspects of trade and what the problem with China and the tariff has done to our own areas.”

In an excerpt from his testimony to the committee Default said that until China buys, farmers aren’t buying the promise. “Until China buys, we’re not buying the promise,” said Dufault. “While there are some good provisions in the phase one trade deal addressing non-tariff trade barriers, those are singles when we need a home run. Similarly, the administration’s trade mitigation payments, while a welcome to many struggling farmers including myself, they do nothing to alleviate the long-term consequences of this trade war.  While we’re being paid not to sell to one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, our competitors are filling the void.”

Dufault said the bottom line he tried to convey during the hearing was that farmers want trade, not aid to make their livelihood.  “You just don’t turn the spigot on and off with trade,” said Dufault.  “If China comes back, are they going to come back at the same level they used to be at.  The USDA is estimating it’s probably going to be 2025 before we get back to the levels we were at.  Those payments were nice.  They really helped fill in the gaps but unless we know there is going to be certainty with them until we’re back to the level we were at; farmers are going to be at a loss.  The message I tried to tell them is – bottom line, farmers want trade, not aid – we don’t want our checks from the government, we want our checks from the elevator for selling our crop.  So, let’s as quick as possible get back to where we were in 2018 when the market was rewarding us, not the government.”

Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) that China might be hard-pressed to meet their purchase agreements due to the coronavirus.  Dufault said that is a concern.   “That was definitely a concern,” said Dufault.  “All aspects of trade with China right now is difficult to ship anything in or out.  That was the concern, a lot of them spoke of not knowing how long this would last and whether it would break.  It’s a lot of uncertainty whether this is going to hinder them fulfilling their phase one agreement.”

Dufault also some members of the committee seemed to think the purchase levels China agreed to are locked in, but Dufault questioned if that were true since President Trump just authorized more trade mitigation payments on Friday. “Some of the congressmen thought that this phase one was a done deal and China was going to buy at the levels they agreed too,” said Dufault.  “I tried to point out that if that’s the case why did the President on Friday say there is going to be another round of trade mitigation payments.  That kind of tells you that maybe there’s not exactly the teeth in this agreement they are trying to tell us there is.”