TOPEKA – The fear of coronavirus may be having an effect on farm commodities despite recent movement between the United States and China over trade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus, which emerged in late December 2019, is a new strain of virus that causes respiratory illness, fever, cough and difficulty breathing. There was a possible case in Lawrence in late January, but since then the numbers of deaths and infections have risen quickly across the world. In the United States, there have been at least 18 deaths.

China has promised to buy $40 billion to $50 billion worth of U.S. farm goods over the next two years because of the negative impact the coronavirus has had on China’s exports. Many farmers are still surviving on aid funds.

The $16 billion in aid provided by the Trump administration in 2019 was intended to compensate farmers for their losses because China stopped buying U.S. goods in retaliation for U.S. sanctions. Prior to the trade war, China was buying about 15 percent of all farm exports, mostly pork and soybeans.

On Feb. 25, administration officials detailed steps China has taken toward “Phase One” trade deal commitments. However, some speculate China won’t make good on the agreement because of tension with the U.S.

What that means for the future of the Kansas agriculture industry is unclear.

“We were just talking about it earlier today,” said Heather Lansdowne, communications director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “Some prices are down a little this week but that happens. We’re not really seeing the same kind of impact that you’re seeing in the stock market as a whole.”

Ron Seeber, president and CEO of the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, said at this point it’s a waiting game.

“The disruption of the coronavirus is going to impact Kansas in many ways but we don’t know yet what that’s going to look like,” Seeber said.

Although nothing has happened yet, Kansas is staying prepared for whatever the outcome is, according to Lansdowne.

“We’re just trying to see what happens,” she said. “We try not to speculate and we try to look at the reality of situations. We are certainly keeping an eye on everything.”

Jasmine Pankratz is a University of Kansas senior from Abbyville majoring in journalism.

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