Last week, 3 days were spent following the International Legislators Forum. Originally dealing with flood waters shared by Minnesota, Manitoba and North Dakota, South Dakota has joined the group these past 4 years or so. Hosting moves each year and this year it was in Minnesota in the Iron Range (Virginia, Hibbing, etc.). Main topics included mining – most directly taconite for iron ore (we toured an underground shaft half a mile down and an open pit mine similar to our North Dakota coal operations), trade issues and permitting issues. Mining is a term we use for oil and gas in North Dakota these days as the success rate for a well hitting paydirt is now over 99 percent.
As in our state, Minnesota legislators see the impacts of a resurgent industry with job growth and more revenue for the state. Taconite is booming in the wake of the tariffs on steel while soybean prices are falling for the same reason. The American Soybean Association sent an outstandingly sharp representative to sit on the panel alongside a similarly able steel representative to explain the effects of the tariffs on their respective products.
Steel is overjoyed with the stability afforded their industry which was teetering on bankruptcy these past couple of years while our soybean industry is, to say the least, wondering what kind of damage is going to pile on to our recent losses. NAFTA was typified by the ASA as having been extremely productive with Mexico and Canada (our largest trading partner) and expressed that the recent rhetoric out of Washington has been particularly concerning. ASA stated that other countries besides China will hit us where it hurts the most and for the USA, that is agricultural products. I believe $300 million was the general figure used. She also mentioned that the TPP was generally good for agriculture. Besides the ASA representative, our North Dakota Trade Office was there to urge concerned industries to use our Governor, Legislature, Commerce and Agriculture Departments to see what can be done to help exports when the tariffs end. Your NDSGA was there to learn and continue relationships with key state legislators as I spent many hours on tour buses, tours, receptions, meals and presentations during the 3 day agenda with my former colleagues who now hold key posts such as chairs of both House and Senate Ag committees, Tax and Natural Resources committees, Appropriations and so on. In fact, 5 of the 7 North Dakota legislators there were farmers. It was stated that relationships are also of the utmost importance between buyer and seller – a point well driven home by your fellow ASA and NDSGA representatives in recent interviews in both print and live media. All participants also heard presentations on the permitting styles, rules and methods of Minnesota, Manitoba and North Dakota. Our ND Health Department took part in that panel.
To sum up, I will use a statement by the Exec. Dir. of the Iron Mining Assoc. on why we trade. In essence, she reminded us that the people outside of the USA have 95 percent of the population and 85 percent of the purchasing power. It is also worth mentioning that while I was in the Range, your Executive Director was in Washington DC working on the behalf of the growers. On a lighter note, to get together and have fun doing it, if possible please find a team for one or both of our NDSGA Golf tournaments. The one at Jamestown CC is July 24 and at Maple River GC on August 28.