Murphy’s Law 2019 #39

July 9, 2019

Out here in Portland, Oregon with the ND Soybean Council to visit the Pacific Northwest systems which normally would be shipping your North Dakota soybeans to the Far East, mostly China. Today the dozen growers who applied for this See For Yourself program got up and to the Fargo airport at 5:30 (12 of 13 made it on time!), flew 250 miles the wrong way, re-boarded the same plane in Minneapolis and finally landed in Oregon about 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time. I had surmised that perhaps the only difference between where I live in Portland, North Dakota and here was that maybe this one had a grocery store or two. That needs some revision as the first structure I saw outside the airport was a parking garage that has more square footage than the footprint of my little prairie town. It is also reputedly home to a fairly large population of folks who have a lot of questions about modern agriculture and its practices, so our first afternoon was devoted to a presentation on how to have a conversation with consumers that might have a problem with fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, etc. The gist of this program is that the way we have been trying to solve the disconnect between producers and consumers is not working well. Instead of trying to educate with facts and science, it was stated that perhaps stepping back and trying to understand and listen to the people who are asking questions or maybe even making accusations that we as growers would take offense to. And that is hard to do. Almost anyone would get defensive right off the bat and that is not helpful. Let them speak their piece, ask them questions about their concerns to allow them to see that you care and then you may be able to have a conversation that helps. If you would like to delve a bit into that, check out CFIEngage.com, BestFoodFacts.org and commongroundND.com. We also heard from Dr. Bill Wilson of NDSU who has studied trade issues for decades. His presentation was about our trade problems due to some tariff advocates influencing President Trump. He explained many facets of the situation and is not optimistic about our recapture of the huge Chinese market for soybeans. One tidbit was that the rumor that China has to buy from us is not accurate as Brazil and other markets can satiate their demand, especially with the African swine flu reducing their need. There was a ton more, but suffice it to say that he is not thinking the U.S. will win a trade war with China and that it will be several years of fallout for ND soy producers.