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Panelists say tariffs hurt state's economy

Soybeans in a field west of Letcher. (Republic file photo)

Several business and farm leaders agreed Thursday that President Trump's threats of trade tariffs would slow South Dakota's economy and tax revenues in the months ahead.

They participated in a forum sponsored by the Americans For Progress—South Dakota organization and shown live on the Internet from Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Ball said pork processing would be hurt, as would businesses that chill meat and businesses such as trucking and railroads.

Ball said it's like bones connected in a body. He said people were spending less on school shopping and lodging nights, for example, and that lead to lower sales-tax revenues.

Making tariffs worse is the come after years of low prices for grain, Ball said.

Low prices mean less income, South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal of Volga said.

"That's when it starts to hurt," VanderWal said.

He said farmers and ranchers tended to support Trump because he's generally been good for their types of agriculture, but they want to see Trump return to the negotiating table.

"We don't believe anybody wins a trade war in the end," VanderWal said.

He said aid the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced isn't a clear-cut win: Each commodity gets a different amount, with half up front, and the balance later or maybe never.

"It's a Band-Aid. It doesn't cover our entire loss," VanderWal said.

Prices for commodities such as soybeans will fall "dramatically" with tariffs, said Joseph Santos, an economics professor at South Dakota State University.

He said a tariff is a tax that leads to less trade. "You get fewer imports. You get fewer exports," Santos said. He added, "Not trading is unambiguously inferior to trading."

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