AP NEWS

South Dakota farmers struggle during poor planting season

May 24, 2019

GARRETSON, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota farmers are having a particularly poor planting season, with cold, wet weather adding to the struggles caused by low crop prices and President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

Jim Solheim told the Argus Leader that the federal government’s immigration policies are hurting the agricultural workforce, but that the main problem for his family farm near Garretson is the weather.

Solheim said the soil has already absorbed so much water that even a little rain will delay planting.

About 19% of the state’s corn has been planted, which is well under the three-quarters that are typically planted by this point in the season, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Only 4% of soybeans have been planted, compared to the five-year average of 39% by this point.

The Solheims plan to dip into their retirement savings to cover the costs. Solheim’s wife, Virginia, said they are grateful for their savings, but not all farmers have such a luxury.

Many are being forced to sell land or to leave the industry for other careers.

Gov. Kristi Noem asked for a presidential disaster declaration this week to help with repairs for damage caused by a snowstorm and flooding this spring, including damage to farmland and livestock.

South Dakota lawmakers have also requested an improved relief program for farmers affected by Trump’s trade disputes.

Trump imposed higher tariffs on Chinese goods this month, making them more expensive for American consumers, and China retaliated with new tariffs on $60 billion worth of American goods, making those goods more expensive to buy in China.

Noem has said that trade wars with countries like China have “devastated” her state and has asked the White House to resolve the disputes.

Trump announced a deal with Canada and Mexico this month that would scrap tariffs imposed on imported steel and aluminum, which could provide some relief to farmers.

Chester farmer Keith Alverson said he’s seen the ongoing trade disputes and low crop prices hurt farmers’ profits and chip away at families’ bank accounts.

“We’re probably going to see some of the farmers that were at or near retirement maybe jump out a little bit sooner,” he said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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