The Vice President of the US Soybean Export Council says the country's ag industry cannot afford to get into a trade war.
Monte Peterson is a farmer from Valley City who also serves on the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association board of directors. He's also a representative to the American Soybean Association board of directors. Peterson was part of a meeting with North Dakota's congressional delegation at the Chinese embassy last week, where the topic was trade. Peterson says soybeans and soy products are America's leading agricultural export with a value of over 21 billion dollars last year alone. 7 million acres of soybeans are grown in North Dakota, with seven of every ten rows being exported to China through the Pacific Northwest. He says that amounts to about 71 percent of North Dakota soybeans valued at 1.5 billion dollars being exported to China. Peterson says growers in North Dakota and nationwide are concerned that the 60 billion dollars in tariffs the Trump administration announced yesterday on Chinese goods may result in China looking elsewhere to fill their soy needs.
"We have had success in finding new markets in many new areas of the world, it's just that when you have one customer that absorbs that much of a product in the world, it would be very difficult to find other markets to replace it. Our concern is that Brazil, Argentina, South America in general would find the way to support their needs during a time when tariffs would affect our ability to trade with China. That's the concern. Once losing a market it would be naive to believe we could just flip a switch and get it back again - it takes time."
Peterson says it's hard to move forward on negotiating a farm bill while the country is trying figure out where it stands on trade markets. He says when the farm economy is down and crop prices are the lowest they've been in years - it's crucial to increase and foster more trade instead of enhancing the probability of a trade war.