Since the beginning of the administration, the Trump team seems to have gone out of its way to hurt American farmers despite (as any New York Times story featuring a diner will suggest) farmers’ status as staunch Trump supporters. At this point, you’ve got to think they’re doing it on purpose.
Case in point: Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue telling his audience of diary farmers on Tuesday that the small family dairy farm is on its way out—so suck it up, buttercup.
“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
That’s a surprising degree of fatalism for a man tasked with appeasing farmers while the rest of the administration rakes them over the coals. Usually you would expect a longtime Republican politician in his situation to, you know … lie.
But it’s getting harder for farmers to ignore the dire straits the Trump administration has been putting them in. Trump’s trade wars (especially the one with China) are the main culprit, but Trump’s war on the Clean Air Act has been putting the squeeze on farmers as well. The Trump administration has approved a slew of waivers exempting refineries from meeting mandatory minimum ethanol requirements. That has decimated ethanol markets, spurring corn growers to send a letter to Trump noting rising “frustration” with his policies.
This is likely to result in a fat lot of Nothing, since the dual Republican drives to assist the oil industry and slash Clean Air Act protections are both of far more importance than whether the nation’s corn and soybean farmers survive to plant next year’s crops. Farmers are learning, once again, the truth of the Republican policy agenda: you, loyal farm communities, are the expendable ones.
“The waivers are what pushed us over the edge,” a now-shuttered Iowa energy cooperative’s plant manager told The Washington Post. “I don’t think I could vote for him,” a formerly Trump-supporting corn and soybean farmer admitted.
That said, none of this should be taken as a serious indication that the typically archconservative farming towns of the Midwest will be abandoning the Republican Party anytime soon. It is possible, to be sure, but we—or rather, farmers—have been here before. Republican administrations reliably screw farmers, whether by targeting their migrant workers or making new rules that advantage large factory farms over small family efforts, and it is never enough to dissuade those towns from doing the same thing again. The contempt for government is high, and the insistence that conservative social norms prevail, regardless of the personal price paid, is stubborn.
But push them far enough, and they might decide to sit out Election Day entirely. Especially when Trump and his team are delivering both insult and injury.