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As Harvest Nears, SD Farmers Speak Out About Tariffs

Agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry. (ams.usda.gov)
Agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry. (ams.usda.gov)
July 17, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Farmers in South Dakota want to trust that President Donald Trump will succeed on getting them better deals by imposing tariffs on trade partners, but as the fall harvest looms, they're getting nervous.

Scott Vanderwal is the president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. He spent last week in Washington, D.C., much of it in hearings with others to discuss what effect a trade war will have on corn and soybean prices. He says the tariff issue puts Trump supporters in a tough position because they approve of the president's efforts to reduce regulations.

At the same time, he says all the swirl over tariffs already has cost South Dakota farmers and ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We have not been treated fairly by many of these other countries in the past trade agreements, and so the president is right in trying to fix these things," he says. "So, we're trying to be patient, but at the same time, patience is wearing thin as we get closer to harvest."

Last week, South Dakota's elected officials including Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds along with Rep. Kristi Noem sent a letter to the president saying farmers can no longer continue to "wait and see" what happens with U.S. trade in the global arena.

Trump carried the traditionally Republican state of South Dakota with nearly 62 percent of the vote in 2016. Vanderwal says farmers still have great faith in the president and are hoping for a positive outcome.

"But as we get closer to harvest, we've seen our prices for both corn and beans drop significantly since the end of May," he laments.

Since the end of May, soybean prices are down $2.20 a bushel, and corn by 70 cents. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that all of the proposed tariffs would threaten $129 million in South Dakota exports. Vanderwal says the president should know that lower commodity prices will reduce farm income and hurt the state's economy.

"If he could say we're going to be through with this by November or December, we could deal with it," he says "But there's no end to it, and nobody is telling us when it's going to end, so it could be five months, it could be three years."

On Monday, China cited illegal attempts at protectionism when it filed a case with the World Trade Organization against the U.S. to protest new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD