US Farmers Are Stashing Soybeans In Toolsheds And Caves As They Wait Out Trade War

Amid China’s worsening trade-war fueled economic slide, the Communist country’s April decision to slap a 25% tariff on imports of US soybeans has remained one of its most rewarding retaliatory maneuvers. So far, at least, the food-price inflation that many feared would follow hasn’t materialized – while the plunge in soybean purchases (imports to China fell 94% between the beginning of September and mid-October) has helped maximize the pressure on Trump-supporting farmers in North Dakota, Iowa and across the US farm belt.

Still, for China, targeting soybeans was essential if it wanted the agricultural tariffs to have any real impact, as the chart below clearly illustrates.

Soybeans

Analysts had worried that Chinese pork farmers would struggle to find another source of soybeans, causing prices to skyrocket. That hasn’t happened, as other soybean producers (who process the oilseed into food for their hogs) like Brazil, Argentina and now Russia have helped pick up the slack. What’s more, the transition has been relatively fluid. Meanwhile, in the US, soybean prices have fallen $2 per bushel over the past two months. For US farmers, the timing on China’s tariffs couldn’t have been worse, as Chinese demand started to level off just as US production reached record highs.

And even as the trade war shows no signs of letting up (though markets are perhaps naively optimistic about Trump’s upcoming meeting with President Xi on the sidelines of the G-20 later this month), futures traders are hoping that demand will have rebounded (or that farmers will have the good sense to cut production) by this time next year, when a rebound has already been priced in. Many are hoping that prices will rise if the Trump-Xi trade talks yield even the slightest sign of progress. But seeing as they have few good options, American farmers are choosing to try and wait it out.

Soybeans

According to Bloomberg, American farmers are storing more soybeans than ever before. Storing soybeans isn’t easy, as farmers in North Dakota are quickly learning: The slightest exposure to moisture can cause the crops to quickly rot, transforming the beans into a slick blackish mush with the consistency of mashed potatoes and the stench of roadkill.

Soybeans

Still, with farm profits down in four of the last five years, many farmers have no good options.

For some farmers, there is little choice but to keep their harvest. Millions of bushels have nowhere to go. Terminals in Portland, a key outlet in the Pacific Northwest to ship to China, are rarely offering bids. Supplies are backed up at terminals and elevators, even as cold, wet weather in North Dakota has left many acres unharvested. The country’s soybean inventories are expected to more than double to about 955 million bushels by the end of this crop year, according to the USDA.

Iowa grower Robb Ewoldt, who’s been farming since 1996, is storing most of his soy for the first time in about 15 years. His crop usually floats down the Mississippi River, about a half mile from his fields, on barges for export through the Gulf of Mexico to China and other countries. This year he’s stashing beans in his silos, making room for them by selling or storing his corn in commercial storage, to await higher prices.

“It’s probably more advantageous to store this year than any year in the past,” he said.

Given that silo capacity is tight, some farmers are experimenting with new methods for storing their beans, like piling them on the ground or stuffing them into large bags. Others are stuffing their beans virtually anywhere they can find space, including tool sheds and caves.

Space for all the extra soy is tight. That’s leading to some rarely taken measures, such as piling beans on the ground – risking their exposure to bad weather. More farmers also are stuffing them into sausage-shaped bags that can stretch the length of a football field.

“I’ve heard farmers and commercial companies putting corn and soybeans into tool sheds and caves,” Soren Schroder, chief executive officer of Bunge Ltd., the world’s largest soybean processor, said in an interview last month.

The tariffs have particularly hit exports from North Dakota, where the expansion of oilseed acreage was a direct result of the growth of Chinese demand. The state plants the fourth-highest number of soybeans in the U.S. and about 70 percent go to Asia, largely because of its geographic accessibility to western ports.

In North Dakota, which has been the hardest hit by the tariffs given the massive expansion of production capacity in recent years to feed the Asian market, some farmers are planning to store their entire crop. One cooperative in North Dakota expects to store more than 2 million bushels of soybeans this year.

North Dakota farmer Mike Clemens is so in need of space that he’s breaking out a dozen and a half bins built in the 1960s to store about 45,000 bushels of soybeans, which is half his farm’s production this year. He expects to fill up his five new silos with 300,000 bushels of corn.

Sarah Lovas, a grower in Hillsboro, North Dakota, has drawn several diagrams to map out storage for her entire crop. Her current plan is to fill up her 400,000 bushels of on-farm storage with 50,000 bushels of soybeans and the rest with corn. She’s renting grain bins for soybeans from a neighbor for the first time, to store about 68,000 bushels.

“I wish I had more bins,” Lovas said.

One family owned farm that pioneered the bagging technique for storing corn says it has been inundated with pleas for help by other farms.

Gingerich Farms in Lovington, Illinois, has used 300-foot plastic white bags for the last seven to eight years to store corn and soybeans. This year, the family operation has gotten as many as 10 calls from neighboring producers asking about how to use the bags, compared with one or two inquiries last year, said Darrel Gingerich, vice president of the farm.

“Corn is kind of a given,” he said. “They were calling us about bagging beans.”

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has been overwhelmed by requests for more storage capacity, as the state, which is the largest US producer of soybeans.

Soy

As of early October, farmers had requested storage capacity for 11.4 million bushels of soybeans, triple the level from last year.

Illinois, the largest US soybean producer, may have the biggest storage shortfall, needing as much as 100 million bushels for storing crops, said Tim Brusnahan, an analyst with agriculture brokerage and consulting firm Brock Associates.

As of the start of this month, the Illinois Department of Agriculture had received requests for 11.6 million bushels of emergency storage capacity, such as bags, nearly triple the amount from a year earlier. Requests for temporary storage such as structures with waterproof covers increased 4 percent.

While Illinois’s crops are less dependent on China demand, today’s low prices make storing the soy a better choice, Gingerich said.

“The markets tell us to store it,” Gingerich said. “It’s tight, very tight.”

To try to alleviate the economic pain, the Trump administration has ordered billions of dollars of subsidies for soybean farmers. It has also earmarked $200 million to help cultivate (no pun intended) new overseas markets for US soybeans. But given the rush for foreign producers to gobble up market share previously belonging to US farmers, anxieties are mounting that the US soybean industry will never recover from the tariffs. And although soybean farmers in Iowa and North Dakota stood by the Republican Party during the midterms, if the pain persists, will they look to punish “the president’s folly”?

Democrat Sinema Wins Arizona Senate Race, Replacing Retiring Jeff Flake

Almost a week after the midterm elections, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won Arizona’s Senate race, after an extended vote count delivered Democrat an upset victory and a blow to Republicans and President Donald Trump. Democrats had not won a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, but President Trump carried Arizona by less than 5 points in 2016, a closer margin than previous GOP presidential nominees.

Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally in one of the most closely watched Senate races this cycle. Sinema led by a margin of 38,197 votes, or about 1.7 percentage points, out of more than 2.1 million votes cast, when the Associated Press called the race on Monday, replacing retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

With almost three-quarters of the state’s voters casting ballots by mail in the close race, it took Arizona officials six days to finish tabulating the results. The outcome leaves the party division in the Senate at 51-47 in favor of Republicans, with the Florida race in a recount and the contest in Mississippi set for a runoff.

The AP made the call after Sinema, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, increased her lead over McSally for the fifth straight day. Arizona still has about 200,000 ballots left to count, but McSally would have to win an improbable percentage of those remaining votes to overcome Sinema’s edge.

Sinema – who becomes the first female senator elected from Arizona and the first openly bisexual senator – will replace Republican Senator Jeff Flake, an outspoken Trump critic who often attracted the president’s ire. Flake’s sparring with Trump all but assured that if the senator ran again, he would have faced a primary challenge from the GOP’s right wing that Flake decided he probably couldn’t win.

“I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona’s first female senator after a hard-fought battle,” McSally said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday evening.

Congrats to @kyrstensinema. I wish her success. I’m grateful to all those who supported me in this journey. I’m inspired by Arizonans’ spirit and our state’s best days are ahead of us. pic.twitter.com/tw0uKgi3oO

— McSally For Senate (@MarthaMcSally) November 13, 2018

The race was one of the year’s most hotly contested, and each contender was ahead in two or more polls since mid-October.

Sinema, who fashioned herself as a moderate, kept the focus on health care and protections for pre-existing conditions as a wedge issue with McSally, who voted for the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill. More from Bloomberg:

Sinema is a former Green Party activist who over time became a moderate Democrat. Like many on the ballot from her party, she stressed her support for Obamacare and its popular protection for people with pre-existing health conditions. But she also distanced herself from more liberal Democrats by rejecting a push to expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

In the House, Sinema backed Republican efforts to curb regulations and voted against Nancy Pelosi of California in the 2015 and 2017 speaker elections, backing civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia instead.

That said, she is certainly not a republican, siding with Democrats in a number of key areas: she supports abortion rights, gun control, environmental protections and a vigorous government role in providing a social safety net, education, job training and infrastructure.

McSally’s loss is a political setback for Trump, who carried Arizona in 2016 and spent two days in the state last month in an effort to shore up the candidacy of McSally, a former Air Force pilot. As the vote count dragged on, Trump asserted, without evidence, that there was corruption in the tally. Some state GOP officials pushed back against the assertion and settled a dispute over taking extra time to verify ballots according to Bloomberg.

During earlier years of service in the Arizona state legislature, Sinema was among about three dozen state lawmakers who served on a health-care task force that President Barack Obama used to develop his Affordable Care Act proposal in 2009.

Meanwhile McSally overcame two more conservative challengers in the Republican primary, and she aligned herself closely with Trump. She focused much of her campaign messaging on immigration and border security in an effort to boost Republican turnout. McSally also hammered Sinema over her past anti-war protesting and progressive roots.

Sinema benefited from the help of Latino voters, who make up nearly one-third of Arizona’s voting age population and who have heavily favored Democrats. Sinema’s win suggests potential for further gains by Arizona Democrats in 2020. The state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1948, though Hillary Clinton lost Arizona by just 3.4 percentage points in 2016.

With Arizona in the rearview mirror, a handful of other races around the country remain too close to call, including high-profile races in Florida and Georgia.

Recounts have been ordered in Florida’s hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races, while in Georgia, the governor’s race hasn’t been called, as Democrats hold out hope that remaining ballots could push the race into a runoff, though that remains an uphill battle.

On Veterans’ Day, Remember the Lies That Filled Military Cemeteries

Authored by James Bovard via The Mises Institute,

Politicians will be heartily applauded for saluting American’s soldiers today. But if citizens had better memories, elected officials would instead be fleeing tar and feathers. Politicians have a long record of betraying the veterans they valorize.

Veterans Day 2018 has been dominated by the confab of political leaders in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. American media coverage fixated on President Trump’s cancellation of one of his two visits to U.S. military cemeteries. In his speech yesterday at a U.S. military cemetery in France, Trump declared that it is “our duty … to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago.” But that peace was sabotaged long before the soldiers’ corpses had turned to dust. Though the American media exalted French President Emmanuel Macron’s denunciation of nationalism at the armistice anniversary, it was conniving by French leader George Clemenceau at the Versailles Peace Treaty that helped assure that U.S. sacrifices in 1917 and 1918 were for naught.

Lying about American wars is a venerable presidential tradition. Four years ago, in a visit to Flanders Field Cemetery in Belgium, President Obama saluted the Americans who died in World War One – “the soldiers who manned the trenches were united by something larger — a willingness to fight, and die, for the freedom that we enjoy as their heirs.” In reality, that war was a disaster for freedom practically everywhere. Thanks to conscription, young American men had the choice of going to prison or being sent to fight a war on false pretenses.

Neither Trump nor Obama can compete for the title of Supreme Fabulist on World War One – an honorific that President Woodrow Wilson locked up a century ago. After he was narrowly re-elected in 1916 based on a campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war,” Wilson pulled America into the war because “the world must be made safe for democracy.” Wilson acted as if Congress’s declaration of war against Germany also declared war on the Constitution, and he ruthlessly censored and persecuted anyone who did not cheer the war effort. Wilson even urged Congress to authorize detention camps for “alien enemies.” More than a hundred thousand American soldiers died in the war effort, and another half million Americans perished from the Spanish fluepidemic spurred and spread by the war. Rather than a new birth of idealism, World War One unleashed chaos and led directly to the rise of Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler – and a host of tinhorn dictators elsewhere in Europe.

World War One exemplified the deceptions that propelled U.S. conflicts abroad. Veterans Day should be a time to recognize that the history of America’s wars is also a history of political rascality:

  • In 1846, President James Polk took Americans to war after falsely proclaiming that the Mexican army had crossed the U.S. border and attacked a U.S. army outpost — “shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil,” he claimed. But he never produced evidence to support his causa belli for a conflict that placed vastly expanded the nation’s boundaries and paved the way for the Civil War.

  • In 1898, when President William McKinley took the nation to war against Spain, he pledged not to annex foreign territory. He changed his mind after deciding to “Christianize” the Filipinos (a Catholic nation). Four thousand U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos perished in the merciless crackdowns required to place those islands under the Stars and Stripes.

  • In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt capped off his reelection campaign by promising voters: “ Your president says this country is not going to war. Though FDR portrayed World War Two as an fight for democracy, he secretly signed off on Stalin’s demand for control of almost all of eastern Europe. The result was decades of oppression for Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, and others.

  • President Lyndon Johnson vastly expanded the Vietnam War purportedly to prevent the domino-like spread of communism (which the CIA concluded would not happen regardless). A secret 1965 Pentagon memo admitted that 70% of the U.S. aim in Vietnam was simply to “ avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).” Almost 60,000 American troops died so politicians could ravage the national credibility they pretended to preserve.

  • After 9/11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to vanquish Al Qaeda. After top Al Qaeda leaders escaped, President George W. Bush pledged to help create a democracy and modernize that nation. Unfortunately, subsequent Afghan elections have been utterly fraud-ridden while corruption multiplied thanks largely to U.S. aid.

  • President Bush justified invading Iraq in 2003 because of Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. The WMDs were never found, so Bush claimed the U.S. would bring democracy to Iraqis. But the U.S. government helped rig subsequent elections and supported Iraqi rulers’ brutal repression of their opposition, helping spur pervasive conflicts that continue to ravage that nation.

Politicians disdain the soldiers they claim to adore.

U.S. troops are currently fighting in 14 foreign nations, from Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria to Chad, Yemen, and other locales. When 4 U.S. troops were killed last Fall in Niger, many members of Congress were stunned to learn of the U.S. deployment . Congress was similarly negligentregarding rat-infested, unsanitary conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007. Politicians had time for hundreds of speeches touting their devotion to veterans but few congressmen noticed the dilapidated state of the showcase military hospital in their back yard.

General Patton said that an ounce of sweat can save a pint of blood. Similarly, a few hours studying the lessons of history can prevent heaps of grave-digging in the coming years. President Trump has saber-rattled against Iran, North Korea, Syria, and other nations. His bellicose rhetoric should spur Americans to review the follies and frauds of past wars before it is too late to stop the next pointless bloodbath.

The best way to honor veterans is to cancel politicians’ prerogative to send troops abroad to fight on any and every pretext. And one of the best steps towards that goal is to remember the lies for which soldiers died.

A $2bn Saudi Plan To Assassinate Iran’s Leaders Involved Erik Prince And The Trump Transition Team

So maybe the Iranians do have much to be paranoid about. An explosive New York Times story citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter details how top Saudi intelligence officials conspired to assassinate Iranian leaders  including Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds force commander Qassim Suleimani — in a plot wherein the Saudis mulled using private contractors, and even approached Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and at the time adviser to the Trump transition team.

The discussions took place around two years before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as MbS was still deputy crown prince and defense minister, and was in the midst of ramping up intelligence operations outside the kingdom.

During the March 2017 meeting about the plan to sabotage Iran’s economy, according to the three people familiar with the discussions, the Saudis asked the businessmen whether they also “conducted kinetics” — lethal operations — saying they were interested in killing senior Iranian officials. – NYT report

According the Times report a group of international businessmen assisted then deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri (recently sacked over the Khashoggi murder) in shopping around the plan to private contractors and Western allies, specifically the United States, and ultimately aimed to “assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom” and try to “sabotage the Iranian economy”.

The program to use private operatives to wage a dirty tricks assassination and destabilization campaign against Tehran was pitched during initial secretive meetings for a contract that was worth $2 billion.

According to the NYT report:

During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia.

The Times identifies George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, and an Israeli named Joel Zamel, who has close ties to Israeli intelligence and owns a company called Psy-Group, as a couple of the key businessmen who attempted to move the plan forward. Notably both are witnesses in the Mueller investigation, but it’s unclear if these late breaking revelations have anything to do with the probe. 

Interestingly the pair had been deeply involved in “an ambitious campaign of economic warfare against Iran” since at least 2016, when they “sketched out operations like revealing hidden global assets of the Quds force; creating fake social media accounts in Farsi to foment unrest in Iran; financing Iranian opposition groups; and publicizing accusations, real or fictitious, against senior Iranian officials to turn them against one another,” according to the Times report. And further George Nader is a known adviser to the UAE crown prince  a country at the forefront of executing the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. 

Eventually, the businessmen would pitch the plan to the White House at a moment they thought they could gain a sympathetic ear in the then incoming Trump administration.

New York Times photo: “George Nader and Prince Mohammed. Mr. Nader arranged meetings between private companies and Saudi officials.”

This is where controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince comes in, who long had his own plans of landing major contracts with the Saudis. According to the Times report:

Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel enlisted Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and an adviser to the Trump transition team. They had already discussed elements of their plan with Mr. Prince, in a meeting when they learned of his own paramilitary proposals that he planned to try to sell to the Saudis. A spokesman for Mr. Prince declined to comment.

In a suite on one of the top floors of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York, Mr. Zamel and Mr. Nader spoke to General Assiri and his aides about their Iran plan. The Saudis were interested in the idea but said it was so provocative and potentially destabilizing that they wanted to get the approval of the incoming Trump administration before Saudi Arabia paid for the campaign.

The details of these meetings are unknown, but what is known is that Nader did have somewhat routine access to the White House during the period he shopped the proposal around

After Mr. Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, Mr. Nader met frequently with White House officials to discuss the economic sabotage plan.

Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince now heads Frontier Services Group. Image via Getty/NPR

While it’s unclear the extent to which the ambitious plan was ever put into motion, a number of journalists and analysts have connected it with last month’s bombshell revelation that Green Beret, Navy SEAL, and CIA paramilitary veterans were hired under the aegis of an American based security company called Spear Operations Group to become what a BuzzFeed exclusive described as the private “murder squad” for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ).

Starting in 2015 the UAE sent a group of about a dozen mostly American private contractors to Yemen to conduct targeted killings of prominent clerics and political figures who had run afoul crown prince MBZ in the war-torn country, where the Emirati military has played a lead role in the ongoing Saudi coalition bombing campaign. The group would receive active “target lists” through the UAE military chain of command while en route to Yemen.  

MBS-linked saudi deputy intel chief enquired with Nader/zamel about assassinating Iran’s qaasem soleimani. Their lawyer allegedly balked. But this seems related to uae/Dahlan enlisting Abraham Golan/ex US special operatives to target al islah imams in Yemen cc: @AramRoston https://t.co/VIxO46QlE2

— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) November 11, 2018

Interestingly the Saudi deputy intelligence chief Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri who’s been identified in the latest NYT revelations as being involved in arranging an anti-Iranian assassination squad, was also at the time responsible for overseeing intelligence operations in Yemen, where the Saudi coalition is claiming to fight Iranian proxies (the Shia Houthi rebels). 

We can imagine that even if Nader and Zamel’s plan never materialized as was originally envisioned, the moment Washington pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) it was likely at that point open season in terms of these types of covert dirty tricks operations against the Islamic Republic. 

We can also only imagine what Iran’s president and his generals must be thinking this morning as they open up the pages of the New York Times to find such a far ranging plan that had the intimate involvement of an Israeli businessman and top Saudi leaders to assassinate themselves detailed for all the world to see. 

For The First Time Ever, Bank Of Japan Total Assets Surpass Japan’s GDP

For the first time in history, a central bank has managed to print enough money to buy enough assets to surpass the nation’s annual GDP.

Under the watchful eye of Kuroda, and the overseeing (but independent) hand of Abe, The Bank of Japan’s balance sheet grew to 553.6 trillion yen as on November 10th – that is larger than Japan’s annualized nominal seasonally-adjusted GDP of 552.8 trillion yen (as of the end of June).

Some context for just how crazy this is, here is The Fed vs US GDP…

And putting it all together…

What happens next?

Gossip and views about privacy, gold, wealth, asset preservation