Friday, April 20, 2018

Farmers warn of GOP losses over Trump trade policy

President Trump's attempt to revive industry in Rust Belt states with steel and aluminum tariffs are putting him at odds with rural farming voters, a larger bloc that is "essential to Republican success in the midterm elections and beyond." Jonathan Martin reports for The New York Times. Farmers across the Midwest say they are considering not voting Republican because of their concerns about President Trump's trade policies.

In Casselton, N.D., fourth-generation soybean farmer Robert Runck told Martin: "If he doesn’t understand what he’s doing to the nation by doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be a one-term president, plain and simple." Runck also noted that Trump's political woes could hurt Republicans running in local elections as well.

Barry Bergquest, a biology professor at the University of Northern Iowa and part-time farmer who voted for Trump in 2016, told Martin that commodities prices were down and hurting neighboring farmers. National politicians are "not in touch with the reality of the Midwest and the impact that the tariffs would have," he said.

Local and state-level politicians in farm country are facing an increasingly nervous populace, according to Iowa-based Republican strategist Grant Young. The radio farm show hosts are "usually a happy-go-lucky bunch promoting industry and holding a two-hour infomercial for the Farm Bureau," he told Martin. "But the last couple of months I’m wondering if they need to take the sharp objects out of the studio."

And Bob Henry, a Kansas corn and soybean farmer, acknowledged that China was targeting Trump's political base with the tariffs: "China knows who got Trump elected."

Trump met with some farm belt Republican senators and governors last week to discuss trade policy and how it's affecting farmers and ranchers. He floated the idea of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership to mitigate the economic damage to rural areas, but walked that back on Twitter later that day.

Some rural Democratic politicians, like Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, may ride Trump's decreasing popularity in rural areas to victory in the upcoming midterm elections. "Rob Port, a conservative talk radio host and columnist in the state, put it: 'This is the perfect issue for her. Her base eats up the Trump bashing, but it’s also an economic argument that’ll have rural Trump voters saying, 'Maybe blind allegiance to Trump isn’t such a good thing,'" Martin reports.

No comments: