Despite Trump's odd boasts, farm bankruptcy rates soar

Trump told Iowans last night, that if his re-election bid fails, "your farms are going to hell." His timing could've been better.
A tractor plows a field on February 25, 2014 in Firebaugh, California.
A tractor plows a field in Firebaugh, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Donald Trump's timing could've been better. On the campaign trail in Des Moines last night, the president told supporters, "We're going to win the great state of Iowa and it's going to be a historic landslide. And if we don't win, your farms are going to hell."

The Republican added, in reference to farmers, "I can tell you right now. 'Sell, sell,' they'll be saying, 'sell.'"

Trump's rhetoric coincided with the latest data on farm bankruptcy rates, which made his rhetoric look quite a bit worse. Reuters reported:

U.S. farm bankruptcy rates jumped 20% in 2019 -- to an eight-year high -- as financial woes in the U.S. agricultural economy continued in spite of massive federal bail-out funding, according to federal court data.

According to data released this week by the United States Courts, family farmers filed 595 Chapter 12 bankruptcies in 2019, up from 498 filings a year earlier. The data also shows that such filings -- known as "family farmer" bankruptcies -- have steadily increased every year for the past five years.

Farmers across the nation also have retired or sold their farms because of the financial strains, changing the face of Midwestern towns and concentrating the business in fewer hands.

A month ago, the White House's Peter Navarro, one of the principal architects of Donald Trump's trade war, appeared on CNN and boasted, "Farmers are doing great."

There appears to be some evidence to the contrary.

Gauging the political impact is another matter entirely. Two years ago, Trump 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," the president said, straying from the prepared text. "You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege."

Soon after, he conceded that his trade plan would cause “pain” for some farmers, but Trump said 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. “They understand that they’re doing this for the country.”

As we've discussed, in context, “this” seemed to refer to putting their livelihoods on the line.

But if Trump assumes the industry will back him, despite farmers' difficulties, he may very well be correct. The Washington Post reported a few months ago on “farm-state fury” over the White House’s agenda and its effects on the agricultural industry, which noted, “Many of those grumbling about Trump today concede they are unlikely to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate next year.”

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