A tractor plows a field on February 25, 2014 in Firebaugh, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty

‘A body blow’: farmers grow frustrated with Trump’s trade failures

Updated

When Donald Trump initially launched a series of trade tariffs, he seemed to realize that his agenda would hurt farmers who rely heavily on international markets. The president seemed convinced, however, that they wouldn’t mind shouldering the burden.

As regular readers know, the Republican conceded last year that his plan would cause “pain” for some farmers, but he assumed they were willing to take one for the team. “I tell you, our farmers are great patriots. These are great patriots,” the president said last spring.

He used identical phrasing late last week, telling reporters what “great patriots” the farmers are. One reporter told the president about a conversation with a soybean farmer who said the administration’s tariffs had created a “crisis” for his business.

“Well,’ Trump replied, “you interviewed the wrong farmer.”

As ridiculous as the response was, it had a familiar quality. As recently as May, the president said he’d “never heard … any of the farmers speak badly” about his trade agenda.

That’s probably because he’s not listening. If he were, Trump would hear all kinds of farmers “speak badly” about his trade policies and their effects. Indeed, after China said yesterday it’s suspending U.S. agricultural purchases, Yahoo Finance talked to dismayed America farmers.

“This is just another nail in the coffin,” Tyler Stafslien, a North Dakota-based soybean farmer, told Yahoo Finance. “To see this thing only seems to be getting worse rather than better is very concerning, and the American taxpayers may have to foot another round of funding if this keeps up — or we could see a ton of farmers’ loss throughout this nation.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said that the pain extended across the country.

“China’s announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by,” Duvall stated.

Are we to believe these are the “wrong” farmers, too?

The president occasionally singles out parts of the country he doesn’t like, but he clearly sees farmers as being on Team Trump. In January 2018, he spoke at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention, where the Republican strutted like a man who assumed he was among adoring fans.

“Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” Trump said, straying from the prepared text. “You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”

A year and a half later, many farmers are increasingly desperate – and openly skeptical that their president knows what he’s doing.

For his part, Trump has already approved a couple of bailouts for the industry – some of the money ended up going to foreign companies – and the Republican suggested this morning that he’s prepared to do a third.

The president added in his tweet that American farmers “know that China will not be able to hurt them,” which is plainly wrong, since Trump’s trade war has already hurt them.