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Underwood responds to Taiwanese commitment to buy Illinois crops

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville speaks to an editorial board on Sep. 3 at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville speaks to an editorial board on Sep. 3 at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, said she was glad to hear of some relief coming to Illinois farmers after the announcement on Tuesday of a $2.2 billion commitment from Taiwan to buy corn and soybeans from the state over the next two years.

However, the freshman lawmaker said the deal is not enough to make up for the hardships local farmers have faced this year because of extreme weather conditions and an “unreasonable” trade war with China.

According to a release from Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Taiwan Feed Industry Association signed a letter of intent marking the intention of Taiwan, which is Illinois’ third-largest trading partner of agricultural products, to buy 5 million metric tons – or 197 million bushels – of corn and 0.5 million metric tons of corn co-products.

The Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Soybean Association also signed a letter of intent marking Taiwan’s intentions to buy between 2.6 million and 2.9 million metric tons – or between 96 million and 97 million bushels – of soybeans.

“But, let me be clear, this is not enough to make up for the lack of access to overseas markets – the Trump Administration still has work to do or hardworking Illinoisans and the family farms they’ve run for generations are going to be left in the dust,” Underwood said in a release.

John Bartman of Marengo – who grows corn, soybeans and other vegetables on 900 acres in McHenry and Boone counties – said local farmers are supposed to receive about $50 an acre in compensation from a $16 billion aid package offered in response to the trade war with China. However, payments will be piecemeal and eligible farmers would only be getting half of that amount initially, Bartman said.

“It’s a really bad time to be doing this because it’s harvesting time and we want to harvest and not deal with bureaucracy,” Bartman said.

Although farmers estimated heavy production losses this growing season, Bartman said crops in the area are looking OK in spite of the heavy rainfall. But it won’t be clear how the crops fared until harvesting begins.

“Mother Nature gave us a left hook and now the government is giving us a right hook,” Bartman said. “And right now, we’re just trying to get by.”

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