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Noem Welcomes AGP with Food Security Charade and Fairy Numbers on Ag GDP

Ag Processing Inc. held an invitation-only party Wednesday to celebrate spinning up its soybean grinders here in Aberdeen. Governor Noem was among the 300+ special guests. She linked AGP to her standard line about food security:

Gov. Kristi Noem made an appearance at the grand opening and spoke for a few minutes about the global importance of such a large plant in the region.

“This is a really big deal. We can’t underline that enough, what this means to the state of South Dakota,” she said. “The day we let another country grow our food for us is the day they control us. So let’s never forget the broad umbrella that this opportunity and this plant will provide for us, is that it stabilizes our entire country and our standing in the world” [Erin Ballard, “$300M Soybean Plant Will Process 285 Million Bushels Annually {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2019.07.18].

Yet AGP won’t process much “food” for Americans. About half of our soybeans go overseas. Most of what we consume here goes for oil, and as I note every time I look in the cupboard and find lots of oil and other cooking ingredients but no bread or Chunky Soup, oil isn’t food. Soyburgers and tofu still face general American distaste and ridicule (tofu rightly so—yuck!). Some leftover soy gets ground up for livestock feed, so we eventually eat that, but that’s not direct food security. So while I appreciate the jobs and economic activity AGP is bringing to Aberdeen, their gleaming factory doesn’t make me more confident that I’ll eat well tonight.

In bonus baloney, Governor Noem also made up some hard-to-swallow numbers about ag’s economic impact in South Dakota:

Noem said the economic impact of agriculture in South Dakota was $32.5 billion this year, up from $25.6 billion in 2016. That’s a testament to the future of the state’s agriculture industry, she said [Ballard, 2019.07.18].

Hmm… maybe Ballard just misheard Noem’s numbers, but by the state’s own most recent data, South Dakota’s total GDP hovered unsurgefully between $45 billion and $46 billion through the last couple years. The only way agriculture, which has had rotten prices and which Noem said has been devastated by Trump’s tariffs, could have increased its economic impact 27% in two years while overall state GDP stayed flat is if Kennedy changed the her mom’s calculator settings from degrees to gradients.

Real economists just told us that agriculture provides 6.6% of South Dakota’s economic output. AGP will increase that percentage, but AGP won’t have much direct impact on the food security that keeps Kristi up each night.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-07-19 07:10

    I thought food security meant the poorest Americans had access to adequate food and nutrition.

  2. Edwin Arndt 2019-07-19 09:14

    Cory, I’m wondering what numbers the real economists were counting.
    If they are counting value at the farm gate that would be one thing.
    If the total impact of ag is considered, (packing plants, grain elevators,
    farm machinery dealers, repair shops, transporting ag products, value
    added, ag manufacturing), that could be a different number.
    Not arguing here, just curious.

  3. Donald Pay 2019-07-19 11:57

    I’ll be honest. Noem may have some foresight because food security is an issue in the US when you have bumbling incompetents like Trump leading this country and a weather/climate regime that could devastate the ag system in a few years. Stupid economic policy and bad weather conditions led a major depression, a failed agricultural system and malnutrition during the 1920s-1930s.

    Trump’s trade policies and his policies on climate change have certainly brought food security to the forefront of many countries that had relied on the US as a trading partner. Food security is now a big issue in China. They are concerned about global climate change affecting water supplies that are needed for agriculture there. They had depended on the US for food imports, but Trump’s policies have jogged them into making changes in their ag sector and diversifying their trading partners. These policies have had a negative impact on the US ag sector, and that will continue for many years to come, even if we can get rid of the fool in 2020.

    When you elect stupid people who institute stupid policies even food security becomes an issue in the greatest agricultural nation in the world.

  4. Porter Lansing 2019-07-19 13:55

    Cory. I’m well aware of your “German palate” which doesn’t value culinary experimentation. But, for anyone who (like me) adheres to the philosophy of, “You kill it or grow it, you eat it.” you might enjoy tempeh much more than tofu. It’s soybeans in a more recognizable form.
    ~ Tempe or tempeh is a traditional Indonesian soy product, originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form.
    Tempeh is an awesome vegetarian protein source made from fermented soy beans, or sometimes other beans and grains. It has a familiar texture that is firm, but kind of soft, and offers a lot more in the way of mouthfeel than tofu. Tempeh takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, which makes it incredibly versatile. You’ll find tempeh in the refrigerated area of the grocery store, near the tofu and other meat substitutes.

  5. Debbo 2019-07-19 21:47

    I like tempeh and extra firm tofu because they taste like whatever you season them with. I don’t like any softer tofu because that feels too mushy. I like some firmness, but it doesn’t have to be really chewy.

    I’ll also argue that oil is indeed food and critical to good cooking, not just deep fat frying, which is often a way to disguise mediocre cooking. (jmho)

    Anyway, I’m not surprised Noem makes up numbers. Seems to run in the GOP, oozing from the top down.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-07-20 06:56

    Edwin, I’m curious, too, about which economists and which numbers Noem was citing (direct, indirect). I’m even more curious as to how her sources were able to cook up a 27% increase in economic impact from a sector that she just got done telling us was responsible in part for our shrinking sales tax revenues. Those stories appear to conflict.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-07-20 07:15

    Debbo, I concede that we need oils in our foods, but I know that when I open the cupboard and find nothing but oils, I need to go to Kessler’s for some actual edibles.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-07-20 07:23

    Donald, I agree that food security is a genuine issue. But if Govenror Noem were serious about making sure we grow the food we eat, she’d spend more time promoting small local farms, farmers markets, and local self-sufficiency than she does visiting big exclusive events celebrating corporate mega-projects like AGP, who she said the Lee Strubinger the very next day is going to ship its soybeans to Asia:

    “I was just up at AGP up in Aberdeen, it’s a new processing plant that we had the grand opening for yesterday and that’s great news for South Dakota that we have that kind of investment here in our state,” Noem says. “It’ll give us another market for our soybeans here, they’ll add value to it by processing it into meal and oil that we then will ship to Washington state, which will then be shipped to Vietnam, Thailand, some of the other Asia regions that we do have good trade working relationships with” [Lee Strubinger, “Governor Says State Experiencing Half a Year Downtrend in Revenue,” SDPB Radio, 2019.07.18].

    Trade is as important to our security as food security… although I wonder if some governor in Vietnam or Thailand is telling her people, “The day we let America grow our soybeans for us is the day America controls us. We need food security! Turn back those Yankee beans, and let’s grow our own food!”

    Noem’s recitation of her food security talking point just doesn’t seem consistent with the main point AGP makes of expanding our market to sell beans we aren’t going to consume locally anyway in foreign markets.

  9. Porter Lansing 2019-07-20 08:27

    Agreed, Debbo. My first year of French cooking was spent cooking things you don’t eat, per se. Building blocks for other items. There are at least a dozen ways to thicken a soup or sauce, from a roux to corn starch to egg yolks. Soft, silken tofu is best utilized in that capacity. *Makes an excellent Alfredo sauce.

  10. Debbo 2019-07-20 13:57

    Porter, thanks for the hint about silken tofu use. A thickener? Is it clear like cornstarch? I’ll try it.

  11. Porter Lansing 2019-07-20 15:31

    If it’s new GOOGLE soft tofu sauce or soup recipes. Lots of instructions available. :)

  12. Debbo 2019-07-20 15:36


  13. leslie 2019-07-20 22:40

    Yeah, wok fried tofo chunks with plum sauce and Vietnamese noodles and veggies is really awful :)

    Think i’ll go get some right now!

    SD farmers have been slaughtered by their president but can’t admit it. Kristi, she doesn’t care. “The day we let another country grow our food for us is the day they control us.” Wow. Artful wordsmithing. Her lawyers of course. Pitiful governor. Replace “food” with RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE. Jfc

  14. jerry 2019-07-22 07:51

    Salmon die off in warm water in Alaska may have us all eating chemically produced tofo made into salmon burgers. Impossible meat to replace beef, and impossible salmon to replace fish in our diets. Tofo, it’s what’s for dinner. Better eating through chemistry.

    Sadly though, here is what republicans think about climate change…hint, they don’t.
    The world we know will not be available for our grandchildren’s children, it’s coming that fast because we simply don’t have the political will to change it. Sweet.

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