HURON, S.D. — In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”
While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.
“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.
Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.
“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”
And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.
“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.
Read Roger Johnson’s letter here:
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:
“Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.
“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.
“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”
To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.
— South Dakota Farmers Union
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