Tim Bjorkman called on Congress to act, not talk, to prevent America’s farmers from being harmed further by a trade war sparked by recently imposed tariffs.
“There is a clear response available to Congress. Let’s remember: The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, places in Congress the authority to levy tariffs and regulate international trade,” Bjorkman said at a press conference in Sioux Falls on Thursday, July 12. “The president is acting on statutory authority Congress delegated. The fact is, we need to re-establish Congress’s role as a check and balance on executive power in the way the constitutional framers envisioned.”
He noted that South Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, agriculture businesses and the entire state economy will bear the brunt of the casualties because they find themselves on the front lines of this trade war: “Our producers, stand to lose millions — the sharp decline in soybean prices alone is estimated to cost them $500 million,” Bjorkman said.
Livestock producers are being impacted also as China buys less American pork. Prices will drop, as will profits, he said. Dairy producers, already suffering from years of low prices, are seeing markets in Canada and Mexico closed to them.
Those market vacuums will be filled by other nations, Bjorkman said, and new trade patterns will be formed, causing long-range harm.
Producers may be able to rely on crop insurance or crops already sold under contract this year, but they may find obtaining operating capital much more difficult next year. The cost of these tariffs will be felt for some time.
Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union, attended the press conference and praised Bjorkman for taking a strong stand against the tariffs. Sombke, a Conde farmer, said he was impressed Bjorkman reached out to him and asked for his input.
“Tim is on the right track,” he said.
He said he is seeing the impact of tariffs on both ends, as commodity prices slump while products he needs get more expensive. He recently bought a bucket for a loader and was told the price would increase 7 percent even before tariffs were imposed, because the dealer would have to pay that much more to replace it.
Sombke said he has twice contacted Republican congressional candidate, Dusty Johnson, on the issue but had not heard from him.
Mark Rogen, a former state senator and East River Electric board member who is a partner in a large dairy operation near Sherman, said the tariffs caused milk prices to plummet, costing them around $450,000 monthly.
Rogen said Bjorkman is doing the right thing to oppose the tariffs and urge Congress to act now.
South Dakota’s congressional delegation, Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem released a letter they sent to President Trump asking him to pull back from this economic battle. Rogen said they need to take Bjorkman’s advice and reassert congressional authority over trade.
”Congress has the power to do something about these tariffs,” Rogen said. “Writing a letter won’t do it. They need to act.”
Bo DeKramer, a Canistota row-crop farmer, also took to the podium to express his appreciation for Bjorkman’s stance.
Bjorkman said it’s vitally important to learn from history and not make the same errors.
“Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders, so we’re highly dependent on fairly negotiated and enforced trade deals, the kind forged in deliberate, sensible ways through negotiations that maintain predictability in markets, so essential to sound business planning,” he said. “These tariffs represent none of that, having been enacted by the administration over the objections of its own chief economist who quit over them.”
America erected trade barriers in 1930, which caused trade partners to retaliate. That contributed to a decline in international trade of 50 percent over the course of the Great Depression and likely made the Depression worse as a result.
“These tariffs almost certainly will not end well either,” Bjorkman said.
He said this is a time for action, not talk to protect farmers. Congress must use the authority granted to it by the Constitution, he said.
“The constitutional framers set up three branches of government for a reason,” he said. “They were intended to serve as a check and balance to one another. I think we are unwise to ignore that check and balance.”