Where did we think this tariff thing was going to go? The daily escalation of threats and saber rattling between the Trump Administration and China started with steel and aluminum and has -- predictably -- landed in the lap of South Dakota farmers.

If there’s any country in the world that can turn back into itself over the long term, it’s China. In the meantime, where are South Dakota farmers going to look for markets for soybeans, corn, beef and pork?

I’m open to ideas, but I'm not hearing many. Prices are already low. Not historically low, but low enough that it’s affecting the South Dakota economy. The effect of China putting big tariffs on agriculture products just means that the overall supply versus demand ratio will be further out of balance.

I’m not advocating for a full on abdication to China. Certainly not. There are real issues that need to be addressed in terms of vehicles and intellectual property. But we have made huge strides over the past decade opening markets for South Dakota goods. That can all go away pretty quickly.

South Dakota is in the export business – period. If the president wants to take away our markets, for the benefit of the steel industry, what does he plan to do to help us out? So far, nothing.

And I’m not hearing anything from our elected leaders either, other than some vague reassurances that everything is going to be OK. Every step of the way in this debate, the rhetoric has gone up while the avenues for true progress are slowly fading away.

What exactly is the end game in this strategy?

When I have this discussion with the collection of Trump backers I run into they’ve got no response and usually try to change the subject to some boogeyman of immigration. Or that we don’t make anything anymore.

It’s true, we’ve moved away from a manufacturing economy. But that’s largely because of automation to some degree but largely because we don’t want to the pay the cost of buying the products made in America.

Then we say we don’t have the good paying jobs of the old days in manufacturing. That’s because we didn’t want to pay the labor cost of a good-paying job so we beat back and demonized the unions.

So which is it – do you want good-paying jobs or do you want less-expensive phones, cars and trinkets? You don’t get both.

You know what we do make? Corn. Soybeans. Cows. Pigs.

At least that’s what we make here in South Dakota.

This could all end up being sound and fury signifying nothing. But for that to happen we have to turn down the rhetoric a couple notches and quit flailing around like a teenager with nothing to lose.

Screaming about unfair trade may make you feel better around the morning coffee klatch but it’s not going to change anything. Only actual negotiation does that. Good faith negotiation to the benefit of all.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its staff, contributors, affiliates or advertisers.


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