To a crowd congregated in a downtown Hutchinson, Kansas, business, Gov. Jeff Colyer touted he is doing something even Bob Dole hasn’t done.
He’s visiting all 105 Kansas counties in a matter of two weeks.
“No one has been across Kansas more than him,” he said of the former senator, adding Dole once told him it typically took him from January to Thanksgiving to complete such a listening tour.
Colyer had just eaten at Roy’s Pit Barbecue, a hole-in-the-wall joint and longtime staple of Hutchinson before making his Reno County stop at Queen Bee Marketing to talk trade and the Kansas economy.
Local Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, peppered him with questions that were solicited from several ag-based companies, commodity groups and leaders.
Berger questioned the governor about his view on President Donald Trump’s $12 billion bailout for Kansas farmers suffering from the administration’s trade war with China. On July 6, China imposed 25 percent tariffs affecting grains like soybeans, corn and soybeans.
“There is historical data that shows subsidy payments can have the opposite of the intended effect on commodity prices and supply,” Berger said.
Colyer said he studied economics in school before becoming a surgeon. While subsidies can distort the market, markets are also being distorted.
“That is what we are seeing right now,’ he said. “We have seen this with trade issues and the Chinese coming in and manipulating prices.”
Colyer said he supported the president’s plan to aid farmers, adding it is a short-term fix.
“This is not a long-term subsidy,” he said. “Where you have problems with distortion is when you have a long-term program, and we learned that in ag, and I learned that when I was growing up.”
Then, he said, farmers were produced from the farm program rather than the market.
Berger also noted from his list of questions that the trade war is affecting businesses, including Shield Agriculture Equipment based in South Hutchinson.
President Mike Bergmeier has said that his shipment of the specialty steel to make V-blades, used for conservation tillage, is costing 25 percent more thanks to tariffs from countries like Canada, where Bergmeier gets his product. A single purchase in June cost him $85,000 more, a cost he must pass on to his customers.
Colyer said he has been on the phone trying to help with trade talks. Amid China’s anti-dumping probe in January, which dropped sorghum prices, Colyer said he brought a Chinese consulate general in for talks on Kansas exports.
China dropped the probe in May, but the effects of the latest tariffs have had an impact. Colyer said he spoke with Kansas native Gregg Doud July 27 about the issue. Doud is the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 1, Colyer was in contact with the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, about the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trade between Kansas and Ontario accounts for $1.7 billion, with Kansas’ share totaling about $800 million, Colyer told the High Plains Journal after the event.
“He is very supportive of a free trade agreement,” Colyer said of Ford.
“We want stable markets with no tariffs and no barriers,” he said. “We would love to have that. We would thrive on that and I think the rest of the world would, too.”
Colyer said he has enjoyed the stop at each county, see the county fairs and other activities.
“It’s absolutely fascinating to see the entire state at the same time,” he said.
Amy Bickel can be reached at 620-860-9433 or email@example.com.