Agriculture is at center stage in White House political theatrics and the audience of farmers is finding out the script is unwritten and the actors are ad libbing their lines.
No one knows how this Chinese trade show will turn out, and there has been a myriad of plot changes to keep the audience on the edge of their very high-priced seats.
Just as there may be with any award-winning stage show, there are many sub-plots which are not only fascinating, but could have an impact on the conclusion. So far, no one can identify the hero and the antagonist.
Watching from behind the curtain are hundreds of thousands of Brazilian farmers, who seem to be in continual political turmoil as it is. While they may have experience with similar plots, they thought they would particularly enjoy this show since they were being paid by the Chinese to attend.
After all, China is buying Brazilian soybeans for $1.50 to $2 more per bushel than U.S. farmers receive.
While that seems to make no sense to the Chinese character named Confucius, that sub-plot has yet to be developed.
But there is a sudden cacophony of Portuguese “boos” coming from behind the curtain. And the Brazilians are angry with their political leaders, as the truth is learned about the settlement of a recent truckers’ strike.
Brazilian farmers had supported the strike, but now they find out that the truckers’ reimbursement for higher truck fuel prices will be deducted from receipts on farmers’ grain sales.
Since Brazilian farmers have higher inflation, they are forced to hold their grain as an asset, and are unable to sell it into a market that is well above what U.S. farmers are getting. Subsequently, the only Brazilian beneficiaries of the premium prices paid by China for soybeans are the middlemen who still hold some of the crop from the March and April harvest, and are reaping the lion’s share of the wealth from the fat checks written in Chinese. They snicker as Act 1 comes to a close.
As the audience of U.S. farmers empathizes with the trials and tribulations of their Brazilian counterparts, they are still on the edge of their seat, wanting to know when this dark comedy will be over.
But wait, from stage left and right appear farmers from Ontario and the Canadian Prairies, where substantial volumes of corn and soybeans also can be grown.
They visit with an elevator manager and thank him for the unusually large checks for the soybeans they sold. The Ontario farmer received 40 cents more per bushel than normal and the Saskatchewan farmer received 50 cents more per bushel for his soybeans.
The elevator manager quickly placed a call to someone in Vancouver and arranged shipment of those soybeans to China as the curtain drops on Act 2.
The final act is scheduled to follow a long intermission to give characters backstage the opportunity to tweet potential lines to each other. Nervous U.S. farmers wonder if they want to return to their seats to find out how this nightmare of a play concludes, or head home to check on their crops.
Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.
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