I spent this past week driving around eastern North Dakota and South Dakota and saw two things — soybeans being harvested and election signs.
It was discouraging to see soybeans being harvested and knowing there isn't a market for them. I can't imagine what it feels like to be combining them.
If you presold some beans — good for you! Elevators are making room for them and they are contractually obligated to pay for them. I hope nobody defaults, closes their doors and keeps your beans to boot.
Frayne Olson, North Dakota State University Extension grain marketing specialist, had some people in the crowd at Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, N.D., worried in September. During a grain marketing talk, he said a soybean shuttle train has run from the Dakotas to the Pacific Northwest grain terminals since June. The ports are taking any bids for trains through February. There isn't even a cash bid for soybeans at many grain elevators. They are "off the board."
Olson said that even if China backs off its tariffs on U.S. soybeans today, it will take three to four months to get local cash markets for soybeans moving again.
Olson and two private grain marketing advisers on the Big Iron Farm Show panel were already looking for long-term solutions to the mess we are in now.
"How can we not be blindsided by something like this in the future?" they asked the crowd.
Their answer: Develop more domestic markets for soybeans. Process soybeans into value-added products. Use the resulting soybean meal to feed more hogs, cattle, poultry and dairy cows in the state rather than shipping the raw commodity out.
That's a lot easier said than done, of course, but corn growers came up with ethanol.
One of the good things I saw in South Dakota were the election signs.
South Dakota has two ag people running for governor. Rep Kristi Noem grew up on an East River farm. State Sen. Billie Sutton is from a West River ranch.
It is going to take state leaders who know agriculture to lead the economic development push needed to create more domestic processing for soybeans.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who isn't up for re-election, has that background through his family's grain elevator business. Whoever wins the election for governor in South Dakota is going to know what we are talking about.
That's one less thing to worry about, which is encouraging.