Trains don’t always run on time. Not even Benito Mussolini’s.


The fascist dictator supposedly endeared himself (for a brief period) to his countrymen after seizing power pre-World War II by declaring that, henceforth, Italy’s notoriously decrepit rail system would be safe, reliable and, above all, punctual. The last pictures of Mussolini show him hanging by his heels, grossly disfigured by the bullets and boots of partisans. The photos are real, the images disturbing. The storied scrupulousness of the locomotive timetables? Myth, debunked thoroughly not only by Italian historians but by a citizenry that soon enough came to realize that, while Il Duce’s train might never be late, theirs was still captive to the whims of the engineers and the condition of the tracks.


If one line of the Trump Train runs on time — it departed the station some weeks ago and is due to arrive on Friday — it will have China’s president at the throttle. (Okay, most of Arkansas’s crops for export are dispatched aboard barges, but you get the picture.) China has announced it will again retaliate for import tariffs imposed by President Trump. To his latest $34 billion barrier, Beijing will add an equal sum in import duties.


These may appear to be offsetting penalties. Not if you are an Arkansas soybean farmer, whose product has reached its lowest price in a decade. The drop was $2 per bushel in the past month alone. That’s well below the cost of production. A soybean farmer needs markets. China is a huge one, the largest, and has been for years. And now China says it can find at least some, maybe a good share, of its soybean needs from fields other than Arkansas’s, other than America’s.


Let’s be fair: the Trump Train — the president’s trade war — is hardly the only component of weak soybean prices. Global soybean production has risen steadily in recent years, including in the United States. Only last week the Agriculture Department predicted another record crop: the almost 90 million acres under cultivation has put soybean inventory at almost 1.25 billion bushels, an increase of nearly 260 million bushels above last year’s harvest. And, as it happens, good weather can be a farmer’s enemy: U.S. soybean output has benefitted, if only in quantity, from what brokers describe, if somewhat ruefully, as a thus-far “outstanding” growing season.


Bottom line: there are too many bushels of beans and not enough demand.


From his perch at the Chicago Board of Trade, commodities guru Michael Seery sees no near-term end to the bearish bean economics: “This commodity has absolutely nothing going for it at the current time.” And, he adds, a crushing year-end price of $7.50 per bushel is not unthinkable. Without some resolution to the dispute with China, Seery believes, soybeans and the farmers who grow them will remain “under pressure.”


Other Americans of the soil who raise other products are under pressure as well, from China but also the planet’s other big importers: Mexico, Canada, India, the European states. Grains (we can include whiskey), fiber, fruits and vegetables and animal protein — all are going to take a hit; some are already, and the damage is likely to worsen. And we’ve not mentioned American manufacturing, including not a few in our state, companies that assemble goods that require steel and aluminum of a sort either not produced domestically or at far greater cost to the end user: already there have been layoffs with more looming.


Mr. Trump says he won’t back down. He has said that before, on tariffs and other issues, only to back down, some or a lot. But by removing a spike here and there, by shifting the tracks a little or a lot, his trade train is already running behind schedule and threatens a major derailment.


But soybeans, we began here with soybeans, and the vise Arkansas farmers feel tightening. An old friend, long retired from the legislature, ventured east for some business and a leisurely lunch a few days ago. One of the disappearing breed of old line Delta progressives, he stays close to his community even as it has shifted far to the right of him politically. His region voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump — was there any buyer’s remorse?


“No,” he sighed. Beat anything he’d seen. So many of his friends and neighbors rejoiced in the president’s finger-in-the-establishment-eye boorishness, believed the “deep state” was working to undermine him, swallowed the “fake news” narrative in gulps.


“They’re living vicariously through him,” he lamented.


That sort of existence, a ticket on the Trump Train, comes at a price. At the very moment of this writing, the price is down a quarter-point per bushel.