Trump's Trade War is Hurting Farmers

Donald Trump appealed to many farmers in the last election. Take it from someone like me who lives in farm country, here was a candidate who actively courted their votes; who said after his loss in the Iowa caucuses that he was thinking of buying some farmland there anyway, because the state was so beautiful; who once sang the “Green Acres” theme song at the Emmys.


He wore overalls, a straw hat, and hefted a pitchfork as he belted out “farm living is the life for me!” to a slick, moneyed up Hollywood audience and all the folks at home. Go look it up on YouTube if you don’t believe me.


Candidate Trump made the sale. Farmers and other rural voters made up a significant part of the coalition that swept him into office. He promised them that, unlike his opponent, he would listen to them. He would guard their interests and give them a government that worked with them, not against them. To many, that was a breath of fresh, country air.


There’s no reason to believe he didn’t mean that, but here’s the thing: American farmers rely on foreign markets to export their produce. American farmers are very concerned about the impact of a trade war on their livelihood. The group Farmers for Free Trade is now running TV ads in DC appealing directly to the president and holding events around the country to rally support. All conservatives should support their efforts.


Foreign markets make up a full 20 percent of revenues to some of America’s hardest working small businessmen. And President Trump’s trade-warring is hurting those revenues, both directly and indirectly. It hurts them directly because foreign governments are more than willing to slap tariffs and other barriers on American produce in retaliation for Trump’s steel, aluminum, and other tariffs. This increases the cost of getting goods to market in an industry that already has thin profit margins.


It also raises the prices of machines and equipment that include steel and aluminum, which farmers need to plant and harvest their crops and till the fields.


Those are the direct costs, to farmers, of Trump’s trade warring. The indirect costs are potentially worse and will have ripple effects that go far beyond farms.


Market uncertainty can be a ruinous thing, and all the trade warring is contributing to this uncertainty. This affects markets that affect farmers, including the price of produce, investment in farming, investment by farmers in next season or next year’s crops, and futures markets which allow farmers to mitigate risk.


Many American farmers have already been dealt a double haymaker by having contracts cancelled and having to cope with falling commodity prices. That some crops will be left to rot in the fields this summer is all but certain.


If farms are hurting then a lot of people will lose their jobs, including farm hands and people in several industries that form farming’s supply chain. As growers struggle, the communities they help to prop up will struggle too. America’s small towns will feel the hit most deeply.


These are just some of the consequences of President Trump’s trade warring. He may think he’s helping to get Americans a better deal on the world stage but while he attempts to force that outcome, a lot of the people who put their trust in him are at risk.


There’s still time for him to do right by them, but that hourglass is moving fast.

Zach Almond is the former Chairman of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the founder of Uwharrie Consulting.