Donald Trump’s trade war and ethanol policy are costing farmers big-time, but they’re still sticking by their man—for now. Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are up, and agricultural exports to China are plummeting, from $24 billion in 2014 to $9.1 billion in 2018, and down another $1.3 billion in 2019 so far, according to American Farm Bureau numbers. The effects of the trade war on farmers are severe enough to be affecting the profit forecast for Deere & Company, which sees farmers putting off purchases of agricultural equipment as they worry about export sales.
On top of the trade war, corn farmers are now upset that Trump gave 31 ethanol waivers to small oil refineries, a move he’s not backing down from even though Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst claims Trump knows he “really messed up with the farmers.” According to a biorefiner, those waivers mean a loss of 4 billion out of 15 billion gallons of annual ethanol production, and 1.4 billion bushels of corn not going to the biofuel industry. Trump told Ernst that he would be doing … something … for ethanol producers and farmers to make up for the waivers, but the White House hasn’t yet publicly announced the exact package.
There are signs of a deteriorating relationship between Trump and farmers, from the boos at Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s joke calling farmers whiners to the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association telling The New York Times that the trade war had pushed him away from continuing to support Trump. Still, a recent survey of farmers found 79% approval of the job Trump is doing. That’s devotion, to keep approving of the guy who launched a trade war that cost your industry a huge swath of its global market. Is the devotion bottomless? Trump seems determined to test that.