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Feds need to be careful with China trade

Back in January, those who attended the McLeod County Corn and Soybean Growers’ annual banquet heard guest speaker Mike Pearson, an ag commentator from Iowa, paint a rosy future for agriculture.
While Pearson touted technological changes that will impact the future of agriculture with increased efficiencies, the real place the ag economy will boom, he said, is in the global market.
That was good news to farmers who have struggled with low commodity prices the past few years. Farming has become so efficient that most factions of the industry has created a glut of product, and a growing foreign market will help farmers bring down surpluses and bring up prices.
In an editorial shortly after that banquet, we lauded the prediction of a rosy future for agriculture.
Of course, we issued a caveat to our optimism: “That’s assuming, of course, that government keeps its tentacles out of trade. Although it’s been 30 years, most of us remember the impact of President Jimmy Carter’s grain embargo in the late 1980s. Farmers were driven from their chosen careers in droves, land prices bottomed out and foreclosures on farms were as common then as they were on houses in 2008 and 2009.”
Well, it seems that the trade spat between President Donald Trump and China could have some serious impacts on an already faltering farm economy.
In March, Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum being imported from China, hoping to bring some relief to the those industries here in the States. China, of course, took offense and implemented some tariffs of its own on U.S. agricultural products, including wheat, soybeans, corn and beef, all mainstays of the Minnesota farm economy. And the tariffs were heavy at 25 percent.
We can understand the desire to create a more equitable trade relation between the United States and other countries, but we simply cannot do it at the expense of our farm economy. The products farmers produce generate our food, some fuel, and a host of other products we all use in our everyday lives.
More recent reports indicate that the tensions created by the early sparring between the U.S. and China are easing, and that common ground may, in fact, be reached.
We hope so. We cannot afford to pit one commodity market against another, such as steel against agricultural. That would only cause friction on domestic soil, as well as on the global market.
Trump’s vague promises to “make it up to farmers” if China sticks to its proposed tariffs are not enough. The administration and Congress must put their whole-hearted effort into preserving and, even better, enhancing our agricultural economy.