An economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation told CNBC Tuesday that Donald Trump’s intensifying trade war with China is dealing a blow to U.S. farmers “at every angle.”
In particular, the retaliatory tariffs, as high as 25 percent, that China said it would impose starting June 1 on some $60 billion worth of U.S. goods will be hitting farmers at a precarious moment when they were actually poised to make up for some of their recent losses. Farmers were already reeling from the historic floods in March that decimated their crops and stockpiles alike, Michael Nepveux told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Tuesday.
“We’re sitting at one of the lowest net farm incomes we’ve seen in over a decade,” Nepveux said. But U.S. livestock farmers may have had opening to regain some of that lost ground after China’s pork production was recently hit with a bout of African swine flu. Nepveux called this a “huge missed opportunity” following Trump’s most recent escalation in tensions.
Of course, Trump is now trying to appease U.S. farmers with another round of bailouts amounting to $15 billion in what are effectively welfare payments, subsidized by the higher taxes U.S. producers and consumers are paying for goods.
But whatever short-term pain Trump’s hastily announced bailout helps ease, the longterm pain he’s inflicted on U.S. farmers will haunt the industry for decades to come. “The markets [for American agricultural exports] have literally been destroyed in this process,” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson explained to the Washington Post. China typically sucks up about two-thirds of international soybean exports, for instance, but American farmers have now been shut out of that market with no end in sight. Farm bankruptcies increased in six Midwest states by nearly one-third last year compared to the year before.
Still, farm country just can’t seem to get enough of Trump’s beatings, with Republican politicians from the Dakotas to Iowa and Ohio hailing Trump’s trade prowess.
“President Trump shouldn’t give up on securing an enforceable agreement that holds China accountable for its abusive trade practices,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement, echoing the call of other Republicans for Trump to stick to his guns while decimating the livelihoods of their constituents. #MAGA!