Each morning when I get in my tractor, I turn on the radio and hope to hear a breaking-news report on how the United States and China have struck a deal and ended a trade war thats causing pain on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Sometimes the latest developments are promising.Other times, they raise new worries. The only constant is more uncertainty.

First the good news:Last Friday,President Trumpagreed to lift the 232 tariffs for steel and aluminum on Canada and Mexico, paving the way for ratification of the USMCA, the successor to NAFTA.

However,PresidentTrumpalsoraised tariffsto 25 percenton $200 billion in Chinese products.The Chineseimmediatelystruck back with tariffs of up to 25 percent on $60 billion in U.S. products.

Sothe trade war continues.

Farmers like me are alreadyreelingfromtankingcommodity prices.Soybean prices are so lowthatour costs will exceed our revenues. Well lose money on one of our major crops.

President Trump has proposed to soften the blow with a new round of federal aid for farmers. The administrationreleasedplans for a trade mitigation program that will spend more than $16billion to purchase goods that in normal circumstances we might have sold to China.

PresidentTrump hassupported policies that havehelpedfarmersand businesses across the nation, from tax relief to regulatory reform.Yet this latestproposal, even as its offered with the best of intentionsand willdefinitely mitigatesome of the current damage, wont do much to advance our long-term interests.

We dont want more aid. We want more trade. We want stable markets for our crops. I personally believe our president, as a businessman, understands this.He believes it needs to be fair and free.I am hopefulthis will be his end goal.

No matterwhichindustrywe are talking about,business leadersseekmarkets to sustain their business. This is true for farmers aswell asfor widget makers. Weaimto provide good products, to sell them at fair prices, and to build stable and lasting relationships with customers.

Sometimes we facedifficulties and must adapt, of course. In farming, our biggest variable is the weather. This year, for example, a cool spring has delayed our planting. Werelaggingbehindwherewed like to be.

This is an ordinary problem. Its also out of our control:Wecant changewhat Mother Nature gives us.

The trade war with China, however, is an entirely manmade problem. Perhaps its worth fighting.A lot of blame can be laid at Chinas feet.The Chinese are famous for their theft of intellectual propertyand many experts accuse them of currency manipulation.Theyve alsoraisedunfoundedconcerns aboutsome agriculturaltechnologies, like biotechnology,to drive down prices. And apparently, we were close to a deal when China reneged on previously made commitments.

At some point, however, we must come to termsorall of uswill pay dearly. Asfarmers, werealready sitting on nearly a billion bushels of soybeans, because prices are so low. Ifthe weather remains cool and wet and forces additional planting delays, some farmers may decide not to plant at all. Letting fields lie idle and accepting crop-insurance compensation may make better business sense than pouring labor and resources into a crop that we cant sell at even a small profit.

Congress can do its part as well. It can pass USMCAthe renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico, our two most important trading partners.With the 232-tariff obstacle removed, that should be an automatic, bipartisan decision. Unfortunately, although every economic analysis calls it at least a modest improvement over NAFTA, Democrats appear reluctant to approve the accord because it would give a political victory to a Republican president.

As a farmer, I can deal with the weather. I can also deal with the business cycle. What I cant abide, however, is politicsgetting in the way of my ability to grow great crops and sell them to willing customers.

No amount of federalaidwill change this basic equation.

The toughest negotiations are often the most worthwhile, of course. Ive seen this in my life as a farmer, when Ive tried to rentor purchase land. Ive also seen it as aNorth Dakota StateSenator. We just wrapped up this years session and, as usual, we didnt solve the hardest problems until the very end.

So maybe these trade talks with China will have a happy ending, and maybe Congress will do its job and approve USMCA.

In the meantime, out here in farm country, we just want to grow the food that a hungry worldneeds.


This column first appeared atCapital Press.