GOP Iowa Senator Corrected on Price of Soybeans During Debate: 'You Should Know This'

Theresa Greenfield—the Democratic challenger for an Iowa Senate seat—attacked GOP incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst Thursday, when the latter incorrectly guessed the state break-even price of soybeans during televised debate.

Ernst—who grew up on an Iowa farm—is in a tough race to retain her seat, as the GOP battles to retain its Senate majority even if it loses the presidency.

Ernst struggled on a question regarding the break-even price of soybeans during Thursday's debate. The crop is a key issue in the state—soybean farmers contribute some $5 billion to the Iowa economy each year, according to the Iowa Soybean Association. Iowa's 42,000 soybean farmers account for around 14.5 percent of the annual national total.

Both candidates were asked about their links to Iowa farming, with moderator Ron Steele asking both women for the break-even price of prominent Iowa crops. Greenfield—who also grew up on a local farm—correctly put the price for corn at around $3.68 per bushel.

But Ernst struggled on soybeans. She first tried to sidestep the question by talking about President Donald Trump's NAFTA replacement U.S.-Mexico.Canada trade deal. But Steele asked again, noting: "You grew up on a farm, you should know this."

Ernst then incorrectly guessed at around $5.50. The real break-even price is around $10.05, though Ernst later disputed this. "You're a couple of dollars off," Steele said. Greenfield later tweeted out a clip of the exchange, writing: "A Senator from Iowa should know the price of soybeans."

Ernst—considered a Trump ally and even touted as a possible 2016 running mate—is currency trailing Greenfield in her race for re-election. A Data for Progress poll published Thursday put Greenfield four points ahead of Ersnt with three weeks until election day. Per the FiveThirtyEight polling site, Ernst has not led Greenfield in a major poll since September 9.

The Iowa race could play a key role in the battle for the Senate, and Greenfield's challenge has attracted significant attention and funding. Greenfield's campaign recently said she raised $28.7 million in the third quarter of 2020, the Des Moines Register reported. That is four times as much as Ernst's $7.2 million in the same period.

Along with farming, questions of systemic racism played a significant part in Thursday's debate—protests against racial inequality have taken place in Iowa this year, as in much of the nation. Trump and his GOP allies have tried to frame the unrest as violent left-wing extremism.

Ersnt said she does not believe that systemic racism exists. "I do believe that you will find racist individuals in those systems but I don't believe that entire systems of people—of people—are racist. There are racists out there."

Ersnt has repeatedly accused Greenfield of being anti-police, and on Thursday said: "She believes our law enforcement officers in Iowa, they are systemically racist."

Greenfield again dismissed the charge. "Discussing systemic racism does not mean that any one individual is a racist but rather that we have to take a look at the discrimination across our systems—housing, health care, education, finance and so many other things to ensure that we're doing everything we can to end that kind of racism," she said.

"To your question, Black and brown communities have faced discrimination and systemic racism for generations."

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Sen. Joni Ernst attends the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 13, 2020. TOM WILLIAMS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty