Snow was dusting out of the steel-colored sky as Monte Peterson stared out his home office window at the Valley City, North Dakota, land his family has worked since the 1950s.
“We’re having November weather in October,” the 60-year-old said.
The words were delivered in a no-nonsense deadpan, but a sense of urgency was working through the fourth-generation farmer. The clock was running. Timelines were collapsing. Each unseasonably wet day was a delay, keeping Peterson and his four-man crew out of the 4,500 acres, representing millions of dollars of soybeans, they need to harvest by Halloween.
But there is another problem facing farmers in the Sheyenne River Valley, 60 miles west of Fargo: They are snagged in the trade crossfire between Washington and Beijing.
For the past decade, North American soybean production has exploded, driven by an intense demand from China. Peterson and other Great Plains farmers directly fed the overseas markets, harvesting more than 243 million bushels in North Dakota, at a price of $2.1bn in the last market year. The majority of that crop fattened Chinese livestock.
But in July, the Trump administration announced 10 percent tariffs on more than $200bn of imported Chinese goods. Beijing responded with tariffs on $60bn of American products — including soybeans.
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