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Struggling ND Farmers, Ranchers Have New Platform

North Dakota farmers have been among the hardest-hit producers by the U.S./China trade war, because of the large amount of soybeans that were shipped to that country. (Adobe Stock)
North Dakota farmers have been among the hardest-hit producers by the U.S./China trade war, because of the large amount of soybeans that were shipped to that country. (Adobe Stock)
August 26, 2020

MAKOTI, N.D. -- Farmers and ranchers across North Dakota have struggled mightily in recent years, especially with the trade-war impacts. A new project aims to get policymakers' attention by allowing farm producers to tell their own stories so the human impact isn't overshadowed.

This summer, the Dakota Resource Council launched its "Farmers and Ranchers in Crisis" blog, where individual producers can explain firsthand how difficult it is for them to get by.

Tyler Stafslien, a soybean farmer from the Makoti area, said the actions within the U.S./China trade war haven't paid off for his operation.

"When China retaliated with tariffs and said they weren't going to essentially, buy our soybeans anymore, North Dakota was immediately impacted," he said, "because China -- being our biggest customer -- we had to try and find an outlet for these beans somewhere else. And we don't get the same type of price."

Prior to the trade war, China purchased about 70% of North Dakota's soybeans. With the blog, the Resource Council also hopes to relay how farmers are hurting as a result of the pandemic, as well as climate change.

Scott Skokos, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, said the trade dispute served as an inspiration for the project. But after hearing from many producers, he said it became clear that a variety of topics needed to be covered. He added that putting a human face on these struggles hopefully cam change the narrative.

"Policy changes and trade issues that have happened with the current administration -- and just Washington, D.C., in general -- are affecting real people," he said. "It's not just like this monolithic thing called 'American agriculture.'"

Aside from hoping to influence policy changes, Skokos says they want to show the public that although farmers and ranchers are struggling, they're still managing to maintain food production for the U-S and the world.

Stafslien said he knows a lot people don't want to subsidize an industry in a trade war they didn't start, and noted that farmers don't want to be dependent on the government. He acknowledged that many others outside of farming are experiencing hardships as well.

"I know there are a lot of people struggling who have jobs, or had jobs in cities, that no longer have them," he said.

The Council plans to release a new blog segment each month over the course of the project. The blog is online at ndfarmcrisis.com.

Disclosure: Dakota Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND