Congressman Kevin Cramer hosted two Trump administration officials for an open town hall meeting in Fargo on trade issues.
Both Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky joined Cramer for the discussion. They each highlighted the administration's decisions to impose tariffs and renegotiate trade deals, saying that while retaliation from countries like China do seem harsh at the moment, they will pay off in the long run. Soybean producer Matt Gast attended the meeting. He says he's concerned about losing more market share to countries like Brazil, and that even increased yields won't make up the difference.
"Right here I have the US Export Sales, which came out today. It shows that from one year ago to now, we shipped 37 percent less beans for this week last year. We weren't losing this much market share before the tariffs went into effect. How long can this go on before we can regain some of this back, or before we can't regain it back? That's the problem a lot of people have. You know, our basis is usually .70 to .90 cents. It's $1.45 for harvest. We're giving .50 to .70 cents away because of that. There's a need out there. There's a market for these beans. You know, people say, 'it's gonna be fine, China has to buy our beans.' That's a terrible answer. They don't have to. The way they're set up, if their president says they're not going to buy any more beans - they're not going to buy any more beans. They can get what they need from other countries and not need ours. I think that's a big concern of people's, and what do we do to fix that?"
Gast says he wants to know if the administration plans to help producers find more market share for their crops. Deputy Secretary Censky says the administration plans to increase trade missions to other countries.
"On average, the Department of Agriculture in the past had averaged 3 to 4 major trade missions a year to go overseas and try to take a look and expand new markets. This year we're going to do 11. And we're going to do the same number next year. We're almost going to quadruple the number of missions that we're going on to try and assist farmers and ranchers in opening up new markets."
Censky says he agrees that impacts on the agriculture sector are heavy. He says the goal is to not have trade retaliation drag on for a long time, and it is hoped China will come to the table soon to work out a fair deal.