ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation will have a new president following the group's annual meeting in December. That's because long time president Jim Holte of Elk Mound announced this week he will retire after leading the organization since 2012. That means he will also leave his positions as a board member for Rural Mutual Insurance and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Unfortunately farmers appear to be some of the biggest losers in the ongoing trade battle between China and the Trump Administration. This week the Chinese said they won't buy anymore U.S. farm products since President Trump plans to impose new tariffs on about $300 billion worth of Chinese products. That only makes a bad situation worse. Farm Bureau economists report our agricultural exports to China were already down by $1.3 billion in the first half of this year and now we stand lose the rest of a market that brought in over $9 billion last year. And that total was down over $10 billion from 2017.
But there may be better news concerning our trade relationship with Japan. Reports out of both Washington and Tokyo indicate we may have at least an outline for a new trade deal sometime in September. That progress may be announced as soon as the Group of Seven summit later this month in France. And the Japanese Prime Minister and President Trump are expected to hold a high level meeting dealing with trade in Late September in either new York or Washington.
Farm Commodity prices weren't the only prices that went down last year-so did farm production expenses. In Wisconsin, those prices went down 12% from 2017 to just over 10 billion dollars. The biggest drop was for feed expenses which dropped over 7% to just under $1.8 billion and represented 18% of total farm expenditures. On the other side of the ledger, state farmers saw increased expense for fuel, labor, taxes, and seed.
Major farm organizations are praising both Houses of Congress for passing the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019. The bill would expand farmers' access to more relief under Chapter 12 bankruptcy rules by increasing the debt limit from just over $4 million up to $10 million. The bill now goes to the President who is expected to sign it into law.