Trade War Highlights Ag’s Impact On The Digital Economy

Trade War Shows How Ag Touches Everything – Even The Digital Economy

Everything is connected, and that certainly holds true when one is talking about the various developments and twists in the U.S.-China relationship – which, in many ways, is among the most significant drivers of digital payments and commerce trends. Now, as agriculture is increasingly coming into play, what happens in that massive economy sector could, at least indirectly, shape the future of technology used in modern retail and associated activities.

That’s a long way of saying that the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China has led to a potential connection between agricultural commodities and the fate of Huawei Technologies Co in the U.S. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, President Trump has “rolled out a $16 billion plan to help farmers hit by the trade conflict with China and suggested … that Huawei Technologies Co. could potentially be a bargaining chip in settling the dispute.”

Huawei Developments

As PYMNTS readers probably know, the Trump administration recently put Huawei on a blacklist and restricted its ability to sell in the U.S. amid a trade war and fears of the company facilitating Chinese spying in the U.S. And late in May, news emerged that the Chinese telecom giant was considering creating its own operating system for its mobile phones, and would also consider alternatives to Google’s Android. The Huawei ban affects the company’s ability to procure chips and components, and threatens its relationships with software suppliers.

As well, as the Journal reported, “the $16 billion farm plan, which won’t require congressional approval, largely consists of direct payments to U.S. farmers hit hard by Chinese tariffs on crops. The payments echo a similar program last year that was funded at $12 billion.”

We at PYMNTS don’t want to make or imply connections where there are none – and we also note that new developments can come fast in this trade war between the world’s two largest economies. But it’s also worth noting this link – potential, flimsy or otherwise – between some of the world’s newest forms of economic activity and one of the globe’s very oldest economic sectors. Sure, that may seem obvious in some ways, but oftentimes, the obvious is what’s interesting.

Ag Tech and Payments Trends

In any case, this recent development also provides an opportunity on this holiday weekend to remind ourselves how the trends and technology that are powering digital payments and commerce are also taking larger roles when it comes to agriculture and all the activities closely associated with it. Most of us are a quite a distance in both time and geography from those days when it was common for people to at least know a farmer, or even be reacquainted each spring with the unmistakable smell of fertilizer being carried off the fields by every warm push of the wind.

Take Barclaycard as one recent example of those trends in the agriculture space. Earlier in May, the company said it would introduce a commercial card product in conjunction with AGCO Parts, a supplier of parts and after-sales services for the farming machinery space. The credit card will be issued by Barclaycard and is designed to support U.K. farming businesses. Users can obtain additional benefits from the card, including an extended interest-free credit period, when they make purchases at participating AGCO dealers.

That’s not all. Last year, as covered by PYMNTS, Iron Ox was gearing up to open its first fully autonomous production farm, and will start selling its own produce soon. Iron Ox Co-founder and CEO Brandon Alexander told a news outlet that the farm is now growing leafy greens, including romaine, butterhead and kale, in addition to basil, cilantro and chives. The crops are tended by a robot dubbed Angus, a 1,000-pound machine that can lift and move the large hydroponic boxes in which the produce grows, and also has a robotic arm that harvests the produce.

It’s a pretty good bet that the coming few weeks (perhaps even days) will bring more important news about the U.S-China trade war. There is no doubt that agriculture will be involved in any new deals or negotiations – and little doubt that, at least indirectly, what happens to farming products in this context will have some sort of impact on the practice of payments and commerce.