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So what does all of this political folderol have to do with the price of soybeans? That should be one of the most pertinent questions that come to mind as we South Dakotans head into the final stretch of primary season, but our main Republican candidates don't seem interested in prosaic questions about crop prices.

Unlike their Democratic counterparts, who are uncontested during this election cycle, GOP aspirants have to fight each other in a primary to get on the November ballot. Their contests have turned into a scramble to see who gets top honors in the Trump Admiration Society.

Attorney General Marty Jackley, running for governor, even recently adopted Trump's signature phrase — fake news — because he's miffed at the "fake news" that he doesn't support Trump. Real or fake, the application of a Trump catchphrase to his campaign literature might do Jackley some good.

As to Jackley's major opponent, Rep. Kristi Noem, her recent TV spots have touted her commitment to a balanced budget, a transparently disingenuous claim considering she supported Trump's tax bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.9 trillion to our country's debt during the next decade. Some balance.

Meantime, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, running for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been outspokenly supportive of Trump since announcing last year. South Dakotans "should not have to bear the financial burden of a reckless government," says Krebs on her website, as if the creation of a nearly $2 trillion deficit is neither reckless nor financially burdensome.

Krebs' competitor for the House seat, Dusty Johnson, says on his Facebook page that he "looks forward to working" with Trump, who "has proven to be an effective chief executive." With that deficit in sight, Trump looks to be more the chief executioner than the chief exec.

While the candidates pile on the political ingratiation, the question at the start of this piece looms large, if essentially ignored. In the process of attaching themselves to Trump are these hopefuls disregarding the perils created by their leader?

If you're saying "enough" with the deficit, already, consider the damage that could easily be done to South Dakota's ag economy by his trade war initiatives, spurring a serious tariff threat by China. Short term, things won't be so bad. There are other buyers. But long-term issues are serious.

A study completed last March at Purdue University concludes that the tariffs threatened by China would create global adjustments that will eventually reduce American soybean output by 17 percent and bring prices down by 5 percent. Last year's 250 million bushel soybean crop in South Dakota would have taken a $100 million hit if that was the case. 

As markets move in tandem, corn would also suffer, as would, most likely, wheat. Little wonder that Grant Kimberly of the Iowa Soybean Association last month called the Chinese tariffs "devastating." It would be nice if South Dakota's Republican aspirants could take a breather from their non-stop adulation of Donald Trump and address the consequences of the policies they so enthusiastically embrace.

John Tsitrian is a Rapid City businessman and freelance writer. You can read more of his commentary at

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