Farmers could cash in on soybeans despite late spring, tariff threats

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Mother Nature crippled crop production last year. This year, the problem could be manmade for soybean farmers. The threat of China imposing a 25 percent tariff has some worried.

The tension is real, but when you go below the surface, it gets more complicated. Argentina, a leading exporter of soybeans, is buying from the United States to meet their production needs. That's putting soy in a position to be a top crop in North Dakota.

Rick Schmidt and David Porsborg both farm in Oliver County. Both are looking to cash in on soybeans.

"It's an attractive crop and it looks like the one crop according to the crop budgets that's going to be profitable for 2018,” said Schmidt, who is Oliver County’s extension agent.

"A later spring affects corn more than it does soybeans. So a lot of producers might switch from some corn to soybeans,” said Porsborg.

They have some concern after China proposed tariffs on soybeans, but Schmidt believes North Dakota farmers will end up ahead.

"In the short term yes it could affect the prices but in the long term I think it's going to be a positive,” said Schmidt.

China's tariffs are a response to tariffs President Trump proposed on steel. Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring says a tariff on soy would be counterproductive for China.

"It's going to cost them more to buy the soybeans, to buy the soybean meal. They've got to have chicken and pork production and they need soybeans to do that with,” said Goehring.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., responded to the proposed tariffs, saying "China must be held accountable for its record of trade abuses and intellectual property theft, but the administration's drastic trade policies would instead come back to hit American farmers and ranchers where it hurts."

Rep. Kevin Cramer says he's concerned about the effect on farmers, but doesn't believe China will follow through.

"This is why I think Donald Trump believes and understands that they aren't in this for as long a game as they think they are. Because 3 times a day, there's a meal in China. 1.4 billion people have to eat. Very few places in the world grow soybeans,” said Cramer.

Porsburg and Schmidt just want a level playing field.

"China needs soybeans and it all depends on what they're willing to pay,” said Porsborg.

"The American farmers are finally getting a say in being treated fairly on our commodities,” said Schmidt.

And, a place to sell their good. No tariffs have been implemented yet. There will be a hearing on May 15 in Washington D.C. to determine whether the president's proposed tariffs will go into effect.