Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

China’s vow to stop buying U.S. agricultural goods comes at a dire time for farmers, who have been cutting costs and picking up side-hustles — like hosting pizza nights for agri-tourists — to make ends meet.

Why it matters: Adverse weather conditions, slumping commodity prices and trade wars are threatening farmers' already-dwindling incomes, in the midst of the worst economic downturn for the sector since the 1980s.

Driving the news: China said it would halt purchases of U.S. agricultural products, a response to President Trump’s threat to slap a 10% tariff on the remainder of Chinese imports — previously untaxed — on Sept. 1.

  • “China’s announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by," Zippy Duvall, head of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a statement.

What they’re doing: Enter agritourism, which gives paying visitors a look inside farm life — and farmers an extra way to make money. 

  • Tourist entertainments include traditional corn mazes, fruit and vegetable picking, goat yoga, and pizza nights on the farm — with toppings drawn from the freshest of ingredients.
  • Some farms are opening their doors to Airbnb guests, who get to visit with cows, chickens and even llamas.
  • Taylor Huffman, a 3rd generation farmer who runs Lawyer's Winterbrook Farm in Maryland, says half her income now comes from the range of activities the farm offers, which include pumpkin-picking, Ziplining and a petting zoo. “Hands down we would not be able to pay our bills without it,” Huffman tells Axios.
  • Yes, but: Some of the issues that plague the farming business can also hurt foot traffic. For instance, wet weather that wreaked havoc on crops also brought visits to Huffman’s farm to a near-halt for a stretch of time.

“Pizza farms” are an ongoing trend, according to PMQ Pizza Magazine. What was “once a niche” is now a more established tourism staple, with farms “serving hundreds of pizzas” during growing season, the publication says.

  • In a nod to how much the craze has picked up, Colorado State University will offer a class this fall for farmers who want to learn more about agritourism.
  • In Colorado, adding a tourism component to a farm can bring in up to $36,000 per year, as the Denver Post reports. But of course that’s revenue, not profit — and it can be expensive to get agritourism off the ground.

Some farmers are also looking to cash in on hemp, which is used to make CBD oil, the trendy "wellness" product. The crop’s federal legalization last year opened the doors for farmers to profit from the booming industry — but regulations are still murky.

  • States like New York and Ohio let farmers grow hemp for commercial use.
  • “The level of interest [in hemp] I get is an exact reflection of the farm economy,” Todd Van Hoose, CEO of the Farm Credit Council, tells Axios. “People are desperately trying to figure out, is there something else they can do to make a little money out here?”

Between the lines: Even as they seek side hustles, farmers are finding ways to trim expenses wherever they can.

  • “Most of the stories we hear are farmers who are just trying to get creative in cutting costs,” Rob Larew, head of public policy and communications at the National Farmers Union, tells Axios. “They’re not paying for any extras, not getting any new equipment and even putting off repairs and so forth.”
  • Gary Wertish, the head of Minnesota’s Farm Union who grows corn and soybeans with his son, tells Axios his son has taken an off-the-farm job at a seed company to support their income — something more and more farmers are doing, both to bring in cash and get health insurance.

The bottom line: Agritourism and other side-hustles may stem the pain but aren't likely to make up for losses from slumping exports and too much rain.

  • The Trump administration has sought to compensate farmers with bailouts — though half of the dollars of the federal aid went to the biggest and richest farms, one study found.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 33,976,447 — Total deaths: 1,014,266 — Total recoveries: 23,644,023Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 7,233,945 — Total deaths: 206,959 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.
Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump signs stopgap bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding after funding expired briefly, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Why it matters: The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election. The Senate on Wednesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,700 firefighters are battling 26 major wildfires across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 3.9 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.