By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – China’s announcement that it will stop buying U.S. farm imports is another blow to the agriculture industry.

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes have all slumped since President Donald Trump threatened last week to slap more tariffs on Chinese imports.

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On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue listened to Minnesota farmers about their concerns. He was part of a panel at Farmfest near Morgan that also featured Minnesota lawmakers who serve on the House Agricultural Committee. In front hundreds of concerned farmers, Secretary Perdue listened to how a trade war with China has impacted businesses and families in Minnesota.

“The challenges we are facing, President Trump is trying hard to make these trade deals, but some of the rhetoric, farmers are starting to do great again – we’re not starting to do great again. Things are going downhill and downhill very quickly,” said Brian Thalmann, president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

“The time to be bold is right now because a lot of farmers are going to lose their livelihood,” farmer Gene Brown said.

“I see a lot of pain from the second congressional district of Minnesota and I don’t see a strategy in sight from the administration,” Democratic Rep. Angie Craig said.

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After the listening session, Secretary Perdue met with the media and said the administration would like to have good faith negotiations with China, but the ball is essentially in China’s court.

“We want to continue talks. President Trump would love to have trade resolution, but you can’t deal with a nation, the No. 2 world economy, that cheats and steals,” Perdue said.

Secretary Perdue says the two countries were about 90% done with a deal this spring before talks fell apart. Now, it appears China is digging in for the long-term. The country is the world’s largest buyer of soybeans, and Perdue is hoping the administration’s billions of dollars in trade aid to U.S. farmers helps them through this trade war.

“Again, there is no other plans there. The $16 billion market facilitation program is the plan for 2019,” Perdue said. “What the president has done for the market facilitation, I think, is the best we can do in order to help farmers survive.”

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Secretary Perdue said he’s expecting representatives from China to visit Washington next month, and he’s hopeful the two countries can get back to good faith negotiations.

John Lauritsen