|Why Is This Man Laughing?|
Farm Prices Are Plunging, Senator Rounds
Why feeble? Because our state's soybean crop is in the ground and maturing into a market that this week that has traded in the $8 per bushel range (Chicago prices), which is where soybeans were priced when I was brokering and trading commodity markets during the 1990s. The corn trade is in much the same shape. Rounds understands that time is of the essence when it comes to raising and marketing crops but is content to wait and see where the tariff imbroglio takes us. How tough is it for our trade-dependent soybean industry? It's brutal. Soybean prices have come down by $2 per bushel since last Spring and a good $3 per bushel since 2016, when Trump was elected. Given the 250 million bushels of soybeans that South Dakota's farmers produce every year, current price levels will see the disappearance of more than a half billion dollars from South Dakota's economy. Meantime, Senator Rounds expects us to wait for the Trump administration to put together a "plan."
And that gets us to the "presumptive" part of Rounds' politically measured reaction to the collapse in the soybean market. Our junior senator's attempt at acknowledging the damage being done to South Dakota's farmers without overtly annoying President Trump actually assumes that Trump has a "plan" to move this game of tariff-chicken forward. That's absurd on the face of it. Last Monday's news that because of new tariffs Harley-Davidson is moving a substantial amount of its production overseas got a surprised reaction from the White House. Trump apparently doesn't get that this trade war of his actually impacts American manufacturers in ways that are unforeseen and unintended. The president was caught off guard by his make-it-up-as-you-go-along "policy," which doesn't look like much of the "plan" that Senator Rounds patiently awaits.
As to our senior senator, Republican John Thune, there hasn't been much from his office about the collapse in corn and soybean prices. He did, however, post an op-ed last week with a homily about the nobility of farming. Lovely as the epistle was, Thune was essentially replacing a hard-headed examination of the pricing crisis with a sentimental wave of condescension. Both Thune and Rounds are coming up short in their responsibilities to be powerful voices for South Dakota's interests in Washington. As we so often heard from Pierre during the past few years when state tax receipts were hurt by low crop prices, South Dakota's economy is too dependent on our ag sector to let a commodity price crisis go unaddressed.