Kevin Paap

Kevin Paap

ST. PAUL — For a young farmer without much equity, it’s pretty obvious you’re looking at a tough road for the foreseeable future. That’s the painful assessment of agriculture’s immediate future said Minnesota Farm Bureau State President Kevin Paap at a Nov. 6 ‘Tariff Talk’ session.

According to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland Campaign, since the trade wars began nearly two years ago, Minnesota businesses have paid an additional $612 million due to the import tariffs. And of that, $60 million came in August alone.

Because of the continuing financial squeeze in farming, Paap simply said, “I think there’s going to be some changes in farming next year. It’s going to be land that has different operators. Bankers will be shutting down a few younger guys who don’t have enough equity.”

Looking at the current crunch, Paap says the number-one issue he hears from Farm Bureau membership is renewable fuels. “Pretty clearly, 15 billion gallons should mean 15 billion gallons. So real concerns with what the EPA is doing around the President. And we’ve got to get USMCA done. We’ve got to get that three-national trade agreement on the House floor for action before Christmas.”

White House trade officials have been in closed-door negotiations with the Chinese for months and Congress has lagged in ratifying a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. You sense general consensus that this will happen — but when? Democrats, along with some farm and labor groups, are concerned about the treatment of workers’ rights, prescription drugs and environmental provisions.

But the pain for Minnesota farmers continues, said Paap. “Nobody’s in the ’give up’ phase, but we’re running out of time. We have got to have something we can move forward with.”

But another farmer/financial consultant at this discussion said the only way to resolve trade issues was to vote a new administration into office. “I think there’s two simple words what we can do. I think ‘dump Trump’ is what we need to do,” said Mark Brown, a St. James area farmer and treasurer for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Noting he was a Republican, Brown ventured major trade deals are driven from the top on down. “And tariffs have proven to be very costly for American farmers. 

They’re not good for our country.”

MISCO Speaker Company CEO Dan Digre, who hosted the session, warned that voting out the president wouldn’t prevent another administration from pursuing tariffs in the future.

“It doesn’t matter what happens next November if whoever is in the White House or heading up the USTR (United States Trade Relations) believes that tariffs are the right way to negotiate a trade deal,” said Digre. “What we need to do is keep talking about it so everybody knows what a serious problem tariffs have become.”

And tariffs hurt both ways. Minnesota manufacturers and farmers who export their goods also faced another hurdle. Other countries have placed $343 million in retaliatory tariffs on American goods being sold overseas. In simple terms, “You pay our import tariffs or forget about selling to us anymore.”

In a Nov. 13 telephone interview, Lynn Ketelsen was chatting with USDA Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue who commented, “Trade talks with China are getting close. And this would be huge … this would double the ag exports to China.” And the signing of this agreement might even be on an Iowa farm!

Also, the next round of Market Facilitation Program payments will likely be even before Thanksgiving.  On biofuels, Perdue said the President said that 15 billion gallons is exactly the deal.  “And he’s not going to tolerate waivers or any other action that doesn’t add up to 15 billion gallons.”