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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Investors have been basking in the glow of the "phase one" trade deal between the U.S. and China, but farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the agreement, have reason to be wary, experts say.

What's happening: U.S. farmers have been suffering this year. Chapter 12 bankruptcies have risen 24% over the previous year, and farm debt is projected to hit a record high $416 billion.

  • While farm income is expected to reach its highest total since 2014, 40% of that income will come from trade assistance, disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance indemnities, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

What we're hearing: That's "definitely not the normal," Farm Bureau chief economist John Newton tells Axios.

  • The $28 billion bailout package for farmers that President Trump signed earlier this year has "increased the percentage to a level we’ve not seen in a while."

The big picture: Newton says the amount of U.S. agriculture buys from China that Trump has cited — $40 billion to $50 billion — would go a long way toward getting farmers "back to a level playing field," along with the revamped NAFTA deal. But, analysts have expressed some doubts about the reality of such figures.

  • "Even if the deal is signed, it’s unlikely that either side could deliver on its bloated promises to sharply increase U.S. farm exports to China to $50 billion annually, or anywhere near that total," Peterson Institute senior fellow Jeffrey Schott wrote Monday.
  • Schott, a former Treasury Department international trade official, also noted that "Trump has many times announced Chinese plans to buy U.S. farm products like soybeans, only to pull back and charge Beijing with reneging."

Between the lines: Chinese imports of U.S. agricultural products totaled $24 billion in 2017 and peaked at $29 billion in 2013, according to U.S. government data. Imports fell to $9 billion last year as a result of the trade war.

  • Increasing imports to $40 billion would require removing a number of major technical and political hurdles.
  • These include China changing its laws banning hormones and drug residues in meat and reversing already made investments in Brazilian soybean shipments, industry analysts told Reuters in October.

The bottom line: The trade deal, which is supposed to be signed in a matter of weeks, is largely dependent on China agreeing to meet that $40 billion to $50 billion metric. If the deal falls apart, it's likely Trump will again escalate the trade war.

Go deeper: China is driving milk prices higher

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.