Let's Hope We Never Ban Agriculture Exports Like We Ban Oil Exports


In the Grand Forks Herald today North Dakota Grain Growers Association board member Bob Wisness argues that lifting America’s oil export ban would be bad for American farmers.

“If oil exports are allowed, then projects such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines likely will send North American oil to export terminals,” writes Wisness. “So, tell us how that will work to promote American energy independence?”

Let’s shift this argument around, though. What if we argued against agricultural exports for the sake of food independence?

America is one of the world’s leading exporters of all sorts of agricultural products, from wheat and corn to soybeans and poultry. The fact that the law allows for these products to be exported to foreign markets is of great benefit to American farmers. Because exports are allowed they have a much wider market to sell their products into.

Were these exports shut down it would have a severely deleterious impact on the agriculture industry.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]What Wisness is arguing to keep in place for the oil industry is something he’d never support for his industry. That would seem to make him a little hypocritical.[/mks_pullquote]

Put simply, many farmers and all manner of businesses related to farming would go out of business. Farming would still exist, sure, to serve domestic demand but that’s a much smaller market with room for a limited number of producers.

Plus, if we structured an agricultural export ban the same way we’ve structured the crude oil export ban farmers could still sell to domestic food processing companies who could then export the processed product (just as oil producers can sell to domestic refiners who can then export the refined product), but the farmers might point out that the ban would make them a captive audience for the food companies.

And they’d have a point. Just as the oil developers have a point when they say that the oil export ban puts them in thrall to refiners.

What Wisness is arguing to keep in place for the oil industry is something he’d never support for his industry. That would seem to make him a little hypocritical.

By the “energy independence” thing – a popular term used by politicians and lobbyists – has always struck me as something of a canard. America is never going to rely strictly on energy products produced within its own borders, just as we’re never going to stop importing food, nor should we want it that way.

The energy markets are vastly complicated, and sometimes it’s going to make more sense for the sake of price to use oil from, say, Mexico. Or Canada. Or Saudi Arabia.

What we want is not a locked-down domestic energy marketplace with the goal of only using American oil, gas, etc. What we want is a free, global energy market where American companies are allowed to compete.