Saturday, April 7, 2018

Something to Know - 7 April

This is an editorial from the main news journal of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   This is from yesterday's edition.   In a sense, this is part of trump country, and soy bean farmers.  We'll come back periodically and see if editorial takes a more serious turn to disavow 45.   This is a good barometer of what the farm belt is thinking.

South Dakota to Trump: Please, take us off trade war's front line

South Dakota has a message for President Donald Trump: Please, take us off the front line in the evolving trade war with China.

The escalating tariff fight between the United States and China endangers a significant portion of South Dakota's agricultural exports, particularly soybeans, corn and pork.

So the state's agricultural producers and top elected officials are trying to get their voices heard in the White House, even as Trump recently doubled down on his tariff threats.

Is Trump getting South Dakota's message? Nobody seems quite sure.

John Thune, the state's senior U.S. senator and a member of the Senate's Republican leadership, is worried. He said he doesn't believe the Trump administration has yet to fully ingest South Dakota's concerns or grasp the gravity of a potential trade war – its negative effects on the country's economy and the GOP's odds in upcoming elections in rural states.

"I really do think they're playing with fire," Thune said. "I just think there's going to be a ton of consequence, which at this point, they haven't fully come close to appreciating." 

'Rural America is under attack'

The state's agricultural producers say they're working to make sure Trump hears them loud and clear.

The tariff announcements were a "gut punch," said Troy Knecht, board president of South Dakota Corn Growers Association, and a farmer near Houghton.

Corn producers are already struggling with rock-bottom farm incomes and threats to federal support for corn-based ethanol. Now they find themselves facing another financial threat, due to the actions of Trump, the president for whom many of them voted.

South Dakota voters picked Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 30-point margin in 2016, and a significant portion of Trump's support in the election came from rural states.

"We just feel like rural America is under attack right now, not just farmers but Main Street businesses," Knecht said. "If this was rural America's president, and it seemed like he had a lot of votes in rural America, those folks need to hold him accountable now."

Brandon Wipf, a Huron soybean grower, is president of the American Soybean Association. He said the association has sought a meeting with Trump with no luck yet, but he's hopeful leaders at Trump's Department of Agriculture will speak for soybean growers.

"Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, he's willing to beg that bug in Trump's ear, reminding him that a lot of his political support rides on the economic outlook for middle America," he said.

But Knecht, with the corn growers association, isn't optimistic that Trump is listening to farmers' best friends in his administration. 

"We don't know what China is going to do, and we don't even know what our president is going to do," he said. "We're not sure if he's alone on this. If he was getting good advice from people who knew agricultural issues, this wouldn't have happened."

Reaching out

Knecht said the corn growers association is encouraging its members to email and call the White House, and even tweet at Trump to get his attention.

"If we're not active on this, nothing's going to happen," he said.

Wipf said he's cautiously hopeful the tariffs will never come to pass, hurting both those who voted for Trump and those who didn't.

"Whether you voted for him or not, we have to work with him and his administration, even to the extent that working with him means pointing out key areas where he's affecting middle America," Wipf said.

Tony Venhuizen, Gov. Dennis Daugaard's chief of staff, confirmed the governor has been talking to the Trump administration about the risks of a trade war for months.

"The governor is very concerned that South Dakota's ag sector could suffer from more protectionist trade policies," Venhuizen said in an email.

Thune says he has rung alarm bells with the secretaries of the departments of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as the president's trade representative and even Trump himself, face to face.

Trump is listening "up to a point" on the tariff concerns, he said.

"It's ill-advised, and we've conveyed that in no uncertain terms on multiple occasions to the president himself as well as a lot of members of his administration," Thune said. "I hope it's getting through. We'll see."



Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson


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