Opinion | Will Trump Crash the Farm Economy?

Opinion | Will Trump Crash the Farm Economy?

Senator Joni Ernst and Iowa’s agriculture secretary, Mike Naig, both say the tariffs will hurt Iowans, and Mr. Naig says we need to expand markets, not shrink them. Senator Chuck Grassley said something similar, on Fox News: “Tariffs do not put America first — low barriers and expanded access do.”

China has already responded with it’s own tariff on pork, which will have a dire impact on Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s largest pork producer, producing three times as much pork as the next-highest state.

A couple of banker friends who work with farmers every day told me last week that with commodity prices down and the tariffs imposed, approximately 10 percent of our farmers probably won’t make it this year, and 10 percent more will likely fail next year. They also shared the news that in Iowa, larger agribusinesses are buying up smaller farms that are in financial trouble, and that people are starting to make comparisons to the farm crisis of the 1980s, when approximately 10,000 Iowa farmers lost their farms.

Even Representative Steve King, the avid Trump supporter and Iowan every liberal loves to hate, is worried about a new farm crisis.

Dairy farmers are particularly hard hit, suffering through four years of declining prices. It’s gotten so bad, dairy farming organizations are giving out suicide hotline numbers, as farmers are committing suicide in the hope that their insurance will save the family farm.

I’m focusing on the area I know, rural Iowa, but if the president stays on course with the tariffs, the impacts will hit many rural areas all over America, what I call Trumplandia.

“It gives Democrats a generational opportunity to do the political work with farmers they haven’t done since the 1980s farm crisis,” said Matt Russell, a rural sociologist and farmer in Iowa. “Democrats do farm policy really well but are terrible at farm politics. Republicans do farm politics really well but have a history of doing terrible farm policy.”

Harvest will be coming in when members of Congress, in recess, return to Iowa to campaign. They will be getting earfuls from rural constituents about the economic impacts of Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

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