American farmers suffering amid trade war with China and record rainfall

Rainfall and trade war hurting U.S. farmers

Last Updated Jun 12, 2019 7:35 PM EDT

Many U.S. farmers are seeing their livelihoods hurt, due to the combination of trade disputes with countries like China and recent record rainfalls.

Illinois farmer Dave Kestel on Tuesday planted the last of his corn crop on his 1,000 acre farm, and he just started planting his soybeans. That's unusual: Kestel planted both crops about six weeks after his target date — because his farm, like so many others, had been waterlogged by record rainfall.

"We fought rain and mother nature all the time," he said, "and mother nature is the boss."

Last month, the U.S. suffered its second rainiest month on record. Much of that rain fell in Midwestern states, like Illinois and Iowa, at the height of planting season.

That rain, and the subsequent hardening of the soil on sunny days, has stunted his corn crop. At this point in the season, Keste said, he'd need "picture perfect" conditions to get "even two-thirds" of a yield.

"What do you think the odds are of having a perfect balance of sun and rain?" asked CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"Let's just go to Vegas instead, I think your odds are better" Kestel responded.

Trump's escalating trade war with China puts pressure on farmers

The rough weather and ongoing trade war with China moved the Trump administration last month to offer farmers $16 billion to help them out — and to help him retain their allegiance in 2020.

Like most farmers, Kestel does not welcome tariffs. But he does believe they're a way the president is applying leverage to make trade more fair.

"Do you sometimes feel like a pawn in the chess game that's being played?" Reynolds asked.

"Yes and no," Kestel responded, adding "I believe in president Trump. He seems harsh right now. But he's a businessman, and he's trying to make this fair trade. That's all he's trying to do, is make it fair."

All Kestel has right now are a few tiny plants, just barely poking through the ground. They should be close to knee-high by now — but it will take weeks for them to get there, if they ever do.


Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Dave Kestel's name.