Gubernatorial candidates queried about soybean prices

At the gubernatorial forum at UT-Martin on Thursday, the candidates were asked by moderator Meg Kinnard, an Associated Press reporter in South Carolina and the granddaughter of the late U.S. Rep. Ed Jones (D-Yorkville), what they would consider the break-even price to be for a bushel of soybeans in light of potential retaliation from abroad to the Trump administration’s trade policies.

Even though the candidates were  interviewend separately and kept out of the room when they weren’t on stage, it didn’t escape notice that the answers seemed to get more specific as it became clear it would be a recurring question. Not that we’d suggest some of the candidates might have been fed the questions or anything!

Here’s how the candidates responded in order:

Democratic former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean: “No, I don’t. But I would certainly look and be informed what needed to be done. Clearly if there is  a trade war affecting agriculture, all of those prices for all crops would have to be studied and examined. And then take whatever action we can take, and hopefully the federal government would be of assistance, too.”

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley): “When I was in high school and college I worked down at the granary on the river and we had $6 beans, and that was a long time ago. And not too long ago, we still had $6 beans. Then they popped up pretty good … got up to $10, $12, or $13, and I thought that was pretty good. I but I think if we could get those double-digit beans that farmer’s will be able to make it. But I’m certainly not an expert. All I know is that our yields have saved us many times, and they are tremendous.”

Republican Randy Boyd, the founder of a pet products company in Knoxville: “So I don’t know the break-even price for bushels of soybeans. If you want to know the break-even price for a bark control collar, I can probably share that with you. But not for soybeans. The most important thing is we’ve just got to ensure that we’re supporting our farmers with the ag enhancement funds, with ag innovation funds, that we’re giving them all the support that we can.”

State House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville):  “I will have to tell you that I would have to rely on experts in the field. I’m not a farmer, I appreciate farmers, my grandfather was a farmer. And I would have to rely on them as to what that price would be.”

Franklin businessman and cattle farmer Bill Lee: “You should’ve asked me about beef on the hoof, I could have told you steers are $1.20 and heifers are $1.05. But I will say, I was at the Weakley County Farm Bureau today, and I do know that beans are about $10 and I would guess that break-even is about $9.50.”

U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin):  “I’m not a farmer, but this is timely again that I would know about soybeans, because we’ve been talking about soybeans in Congress with the Farm Bill, and believe they’re at about $10 a bushel right now, and break-even is somewhere in the $9 area. But we don’t want them to just break even. We want them to grow their farms and be able to hand those farms down to their families.”

For what it’s worth, the price of soybeans on Thursday was $10.2125 per bushel.

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