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Reality check: The soybean debate is running short on facts

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Although soybeans — which are almost exclusively produced by farmers in Trump country — have been a prime target for Chinese tariffs, the politically-charged debate in the president's escalating trade war has politicians from both parties making false assessments on the consequences soybeans farmers are currently facing, a Washington Post analysis found.

The big picture: Both a red-state Democrat and President Trump have tweeted false information on the heated matter. As the Post notes, "The agricultural commodities market is a complicated balance of supply and demand that politicians seem intent on glossing over."

The details: Vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is seeking re-election, argue that farmers are being badly hurt by the trade war. In a tweet her office later deleted, the senator cited a study saying the "U.S. have already lost $13 billion because of the administration’s trade war."

  • Further review by the Post found that the "$13 billion" reference was a quote from an economist who told the publication he reached that figure after calculating this year's estimated production by the change in daily prices. "That means his estimate changes every day," the Post noted.

The other side: President Trump claimed last month that the "European Union told me that they would start buying soybeans from our great farmers immediately," and that commodity prices were dropping before he took office.

  • However, the Post said there has been a recent drop in commodities, but soybean prices have not plunged "50% since 5 years before the Election," as the president claimed.

The bottom line: "Prices for agricultural products are shaped by a plethora of forces, including the number of plantings, global trends, weather and what happened the year before," the Post explains. And at the end of the day, facts are facts.

Go deeper: Soybeans are an unlikely political ground zero in Trump's trade war