JIM DOTZENROD: The Long-Term Effects of “Short-Term Pain” for Farmers

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the Trump administration’s trade war go from threats on social media and in speeches to actual government policy. The effects of the trade war are already being felt in North Dakota, through falling commodity prices, canceled orders of U.S. soybeans, and market fears of what the future for agricultural products will be.

One of the faulty talking points being floated by trade war supporters is that the effects of their misguided policies will only cause short-term pain. In fact, Congressman Kevin Cramer used that same flawed logic while dismissing the complaints of families who are worried about the future of their farms as not having “a very high pain threshold.”

North Dakota relies on export markets for agriculture and energy products as the driving force behind our state’s economy. However, with the Trump administration’s policy of slapping tariffs on our trading partners, these buyers are looking for new avenues to fulfill their demand. China will buy all the soybeans they can from Brazil, and yes, in the short term (given China’s very large demand), they will need to buy some smaller amounts of their soybeans from the U.S. But this is a long-term damaging strategy for North Dakota farmers because we are telling our customers to find other suppliers.

What is even more worrisome is the declining confidence abroad that the United States is open for business. If China sees the United States as an unreliable trading partner, many analysts believe they will expand their investments in building up the agriculture infrastructure of other countries, including bringing undeveloped lands into production, to meet their demand. This could, in a few short years, result in the loss of vitally important markets that have been built through decades of work by North Dakota farmers and their commodity groups. Markets today do not guarantee markets tomorrow, and this trade war could prove to be dangerous for the entire American ag industry.

Farmers need markets for their products, and they need a government that supports that goal.

The above was submitted for publication by Jim Dotzenrod. Dotzenrod is a ND State Senator from District 26 and the Democratic-NPL candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.