The Trygve Olson editorial cartoon in the March 24th Forum shows Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., holding an electric cattle prod and talking about getting tough on the trade war effects on farm commodities. Hoeven’s history makes me believe that actual prodding or other decisive action is highly unlikely.
At the beginning of this trade war fiasco, President Trump tweeted “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” But everyone knew that China would retaliate against Trump’s tariffs with tariffs on U. S. imports including farm commodities. That would have been the appropriate time for Hoeven to confront the president and tell him “Trade wars are bad for the economy. Knock it off.”
The fact is, damage has already been done. The rest of the world sees that we are not reliable trading partners. China is developing infrastructure to get their soybeans from Brazil and other sources. Also, China’s pigs can eat things other than soybean meal. China was our biggest soybean export market. No new agreement will bring it all back. All the other available markets together are not enough to replace it. Trump’s damage to our soybean exports is long term.
Farmers who grow wheat are also in peril. Trump withdrew from the 12 nation Trans Pacific Partnership. The other 11 nations stayed in. Two of them, Canada and Australia are our largest competitors in the international wheat market. Anther TPP member, Japan, has been our second largest export market for wheat. Japan is lowering tariffs for other TPP members that will give Canadian and Australian wheat a $1.88 per bushel advantage over U. S. wheat by 2026.
Meanwhile, Hoeven met with Trump and had a discussion.