North Dakota Farmers Deserve Answers on MFP Distribution and Trade Resolution

Recently, a report was published demonstrating the skewed payments in the MFP roll out. It turns out payments are disproportionately going to Southern states. It is important to ask why? North Dakota farmers deserve answers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear those in an official public position to get those answers are willing to live up to the task.

According to reports, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s home state of Georgia tops the list for average per-acre payments. Why did Georgia farmers receive an average of $50 per acre in the first round of 2019 payments, while farmers in places like North Dakota received an average of $31? Was it based on a fair distribution model or did favoritism by the Ag Secretary skew the payments?

This would seem like a legitimate question for North Dakota’s elected officials. Approximately two weeks ago, Senators Hoeven and Cramer, and Governor Doug Burgum hosted USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey. One of the very reasons Northey was in the state was to talk about the MFP roll out. Did they even bother to ask why the farmers they represent were receiving much less than southern states or was the visit more of a photo opportunity at the NDSU football game that Saturday?

It isn’t just a question of distribution across the country, but also within the states themselves. For example, In North Dakota the per acre payment in Logan County was $34 but neighboring LaMoure County was $60. If we are going to continue with these federal payments, there has to be a better way. Is a more fair distribution for family farmers possible?

Many of the farmers I’ve talked to despise the fact they are still talking about federal assistance heading into 2020. After all, we were told by the President “trade wars are good and easy to win.” The frustration from farmers is mounting and the White House appears to be feeling some of the anger. Farmers are increasingly angry about the Trump administration’s approach to ethanol. Burgum has been absent for his farmers in that debate. Sense a pattern by the Governor yet? While farmers struggle, big oil gets a break. Because of heat, President Trump tweeted over the weekend to assure them “cash” was on the way.

Quick reminder: China isn’t writing a check to American farmers. That repeated talking point is misleading at best and an outright lie at worst. It is unacceptable that people who know better like John Hoeven have tried to spread that false narrative. The money sent to farmers is from American businesses that are paying the import tax. Still, the MFP has been necessary to try and help bridge the gap. Yet, when does the trade war end? We were told an agreement with China has been made. Reports today suggest otherwise.

The agricultural situation is dire. The warning signs of the potential ripple effects to the rest of the rural economy are starting to be noticed. Farm bankruptcies have jumped to the highest level since 2011Soon, main streets will also likely feel the direct impacts. Disaster designations have been declared due to weather conditions beyond our control. Yet, not all disasters impacting the family farmers are beyond our collective control. Well thought out, balanced, public policy including biofuels and trade -including USMCA – can go a long way. North Dakotans would be wise to elect people who show up, ask questions instead of simply smiling for a camera, and fight for their interests and actually get results.

Tyler Axness
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