Ernst flubbed the all-important soybean gimme question that probably dooms her in Iowa. Theresa Greenfield aced her question, to the penny.
October 17, 2020

You might think that someone who got into the U.S. Senate promoting her agricultural background with folksy ads about castrating pigs would actually know something about agriculture, but in what amounted to a must-know gimme question from a debate moderator, Joni Ernst proved to be completely clueless. Some serious debate malpractice there on Thursday night. In Iowa, this is like missing a layup.

Source: Washington Post

When Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield first met to debate a few weeks ago, the spectacle was unpleasant to watch. The two women accused each other of being corporate tools, and each demanded an apology in return. Moderator David Yepsen was forced to stop the shouting and ask: “Is this the way Iowans expect their senator to act?”

Not much to learn there. But — whoa, Nellie — the candidates had a second debate Thursday night that will not be soon forgotten. Moderator Ron Steele asked Greenfield what the break-even price of a bushel of corn was for an Iowa farmer. Three dollars and 68 cents, she replied, adding that it depends on the individual farmer’s cost structure. Right answer! She can expect a gold star from the Iowa State University extension service.

Steele then asked Ernst to state the break-even price for soybeans. Ernst wasn’t sure. “You grew up on a farm. You should know this,” Steele said. Ernst guessed: Maybe $5.50 per bushel? “Would you care to give it another try?” asked co-moderator Matt Breen. No thanks, Ernst replied which was probably wise. The break-even on soybeans is around $10 per bushel.

Most farmers who intend to plant next year can quote the markets by the hour. They know their market prices, their subsidy levels, their break-even costs. A rule of running for statewide office in Iowa is to know corn and soybean prices and be facile with the donut hole for Medicare.

Not knowing the price of beans is our version of the once-standard presidential debate question: How much is a gallon of milk?

Ernst's infamous 2014 ad, "Squeal."

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