American farmers have finally found a government subsidy they don’t like. Earlier this week, President Trump announced a $12 billion emergency relief package for agricultural producers — who’ve been harmed by the “emergency” of his own trade policies.
While some farm groups applauded the handout, many took it as confirmation that the White House has no intention of calling off its trade war anytime soon. After all, if the president were on the brink of a breakthrough with China, he wouldn’t feel compelled to funnel such large subsidies through an obscure New Deal–era program. On Tuesday, the American Soybean Association demanded a “a longer-term strategy to alleviate mounting soybean surpluses and continued low prices, including a plan to remove the harmful tariffs.” That sentiment was echoed by other agricultural lobbies, including the recently formed Farmers for Free Trade — which is preparing a $2.5 million campaign against the president’s tariffs. As Politico reports:
The nonprofit group, which is backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and major commodity groups like the National Pork Producers Council, is investing $2.5 million in the four-month campaign aimed at showcasing how the tariffs are causing pain among U.S. farmers and manufacturers because of Trump’s trade policies.
The centerpiece of the campaign is an advertisement set to run on Fox News, CNBC and CNN and in local television and radio markets in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The ad calls out White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s July 19 remarks where he called the impact of tariffs a “rounding error.”
“America’s farmers and factory workers are not a rounding error,” the ad says.
The organization will also deploy digital and print advertising as well as town hall events starting during the August congressional recess to get the attention of lawmakers back in their home states and districts.
These farmers’ frustration is understandable. In Trump’s maniacally nationalistic dreamscape, American industries might be getting killed by rotten trade deals; but in reality, the United States heavily subsidizes its domestic agriculture — in ways that give it an unfair advantage in the global ag trade — and America’s allies have largely tolerated this arrangement.
Now, the president is doing everything in his power to ruin the bread belt’s good thing. The National Farmers Union estimates that the tariffs foreign countries have placed on American farm products — in retaliation against Trump’s various tariffs — have already cost U.S. agricultural interests $13 billion. Meanwhile, the uncertainty that Trump has engineered about NAFTA’s future has led Mexican millers and grain traders to reduce their reliance on American wheat. In recent months, such Mexican firms have increased their purchases of Russian wheat, and are now planning to import large quantities of wheat from Argentina’s burgeoning grain exporters. As a result, U.S. wheat exports to Mexico fell 38 percent in the first five months of this year, according to Reuters.
All that said, although Trump’s trade war might not be working out all that well for American farmers, or carmakers, or consumers, they are giving so much needed aid to the Democratic Party’s most vulnerable Senate incumbents.