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Agriculture Commissioner Goehring talks farm economy, ethanol

North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner said the state's farming and ranching community has felt their fair share of challenges over the last six years.

Goehring said in a normal cycle, the market would likely start turning around. But he said that isn't happening now – because the market is still fraught with challenges.

"There's a trade war with China," Goehring said. "We're still dealing with high tariffs across the entire world, from many countries."

But Goehring said the issue that is giving the agriculture community the biggest fits is the value of the US dollar.

"We're just not competitive in the global market," Goehring said.

But Goehring saids despite that, producers continue to search for new markets. And he said there are still opportunities.

"We are viewed as having the highest quality products, and the safest, in the marketplace," Goehring said. "Those are big deals."

And Goehring said you also have to give credit to television's reach.

"Most of our television commercials are viewed across the world," Goehring said. "It does help promote our products."

Goehring has been on a number of trade missions over the past several months – and he has plans for more. He said it’s important to build those relationships, so when those countries are ready to buy – they will buy from us.


Goehring said he's also concerned about the EPA’s decision to allow small oil refineries to opt out of the renewable fuel standard.

31 refineries have been granted waivers on the use of ethanol and other biofuels.

The action has caused one South Dakota and one Minnesota plant to close, and other plants to ratchet-back production.

"We have five facilities in North Dakota, that produce about 500 million gallons annually," Goehring said. "I know their bottom lines are being stressed and tested. That's putting pressure on them, as to whether they're going to stay in business."

But Goehring said there might be better news on the horizon. He said Brazil, for example, has been approached to import more US ethanol. And he said USDA has come up with some plans to deal with this. But Goehring said he also thinks Congress should get involved.

"The bottom line is, something has to change here, for them to have a better outlook, if we're going to keep those plants open going forward," Goehring said.

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