Illinois farmer Reid Thompson took over his family farming business in 2019,
amid deepening tensions between the US and key trading partners,
a time when demand and profits for US corn and soybeans were tanking.
My career into full-time farming was rather stressful.
To reduce the stress the US Department of Agriculture sent direct aid
totaling tens of billions of dollars over several years to farmers like Thompson.
It helped keep them afloat not just a mid-trade turmoil but also during the coronavirus pandemic
so that they could farm another day.
Like this cool and dry April morning,when Thompson planted his soybean seeds.
As his tractor cuts through the fertile soil prices for his crops are reaching decade highs,
a dramatic change from just a year ago.
I would say 30 to 50 percent higher than what we were 12 months ago
and so first time in several years that farmers can plan on profit without government money.
The government money helped Thompson offset the dent in his profits
influenced by the Trump Administrations tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.
The tariffs prompted China, one of the largest markets for US soybeans
to slap escalating tariffs on US grain exports.
Among other goods those policies that you know featured a lot of tariffs and retaliation werent very helpful,
but I think weve dug out of that hole and weve started to see some gains,
so were hoping to keep that momentum going.
Adam Nielsen is the National Legislative Director for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
He works with members of congress and the White House to advocate for policies that help the US agriculture industry.
In terms of seeing expanded trade,we dont care whos in the White House.
That is one of our priority issues.
It was under Trump.
It will be under Biden.
Nielsen credits the Trump Administrations "Phase I" Agreement with China
and the United States-Canada-Mexico trade Agreements or USMCA
for helping boost demand and prices this year.
He says US lawmakers should set their sights on new trade agreements.
There are countries and there are regions of the world that are entering the middle class for the first time.
Sub-Saharan Africa, for example.
You know those are the markets where theres potential growth
and you know with Biden coming in,
there are opportunities to strike deals with the UK, Korea, Japan and others.
Thompson says hes been able to sell some of the grain hes been storing since last years harvest at todays high prices,
but Farm Credit Illinois Regional Manager Caleb May says many farmers might not be able to cash in.
We may have high prices today but you may not have anything to sell for those high prices.
Thompson says theres also a downside to high prices.
As our commodity prices go up, so does everything else.
Thompson expects cost to run his farm to go up 15 percent this year.
But am I going to end up in a better position now than I did at the end of last year?
For now the answer is as uncertain as the long-term weather forecast.
Kaine Fairbaugh VOA news Gibson City Illinois