In the upper Midwest, the brisk autumn air has already signaled the annual harvest season. But farmers in North Dakota, where an election in two months could be pivotal in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate, are feeling another kind of chill: They fear that President Trump’s trade battles have created lasting obstacles to their livelihoods.
In North Dakota, Chinese tariffs on soybeans have thrown a wrench in the finely tuned production line that makes agriculture a profitable pursuit. Farmers are now betting on high-stakes negotiations that don’t appear to be coming to fruition anytime soon. Although polls show that the president’s support remains strong in this deep-red state, political observers say that the farmers’ plight has complicated Republicans’ hopes of ousting longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in November.
Soybeans may sound esoteric to city dwellers in Washington, but as a cash crop in this country it’s second only to corn – worth $41 billion last year alone, much of it sold overseas. Earlier this year, China retaliated against the U.S. by enacting tariffs on U.S.-grown soybeans. This was not merely a symbolic gesture: The Chinese are the number one consumer of American soybeans, which they feed to livestock and use for cooking oil. Addressing domestic political pressure to reach an agreement with China, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters put out a statement last month saying U.S. representatives met with their Chinese counterparts and discussed “how to achieve fairness, balance, and reciprocity in the economic relationship.” But these talks did not result in a deal.
Read the full story here.