Donald Trump has literally ruined thousands of farms that have already suffered tremendously with the large drop in commodity prices and falling income. Trump’s reckless trade war with our allies has cost billions so far. Through it all, however, the farmers have largely stuck with him.
Well, that’s about to change.
But as the government shutdown now drags into a third week, some farmers say the loss of crucial loans, payments and other services has pushed them — and their support — to a breaking point.
While many rural conservatives may loathe the idea of Big Government, farmers and the federal government are welded together by dozens of programs and billions of dollars in spending.
Now, farmers and farm groups say that federal crop payments have stopped flowing. Farmers cannot get federally backed operating loans to buy seed for their spring planting, or feed for their livestock. They cannot look up new government data about beef prices or soybean yields to make decisions about planting and selling their goods in an ever-changing global market.
Let’s back up a second. Even before the shutdown, Trump coddled our enemies while simultaneously declaring a tariff war on our largest trading partners: Canada, Mexico, China and the EU. Remember when Trump bragged about how “easy” trade wars were to “win”? Well, by any metric we’re not winning. Our exports plummeted by nearly 30%, and we have suffered billions in losses with the hardest hit being the Trump states, whose industries were micro-targeted. Even using Trump’s own metric, the US trade deficit, he failed: it increased over $100 billion since he took office.
The US dairy industry suffered its worst year in US history last year. The foreign market the US Dairy Export Council spent decades cultivating were “taken away with the stroke of a pen”.
Soybean farmers, concentrated around the Midwest, have been decimated. China bought 60% of exported soy. Yet China imported exactly ZERO soybeans from the US in November. It moved to other suppliers. The biggest benefactor?
President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would supply soy beans and poultry meat to China and that the United States had effectively given up on that market.
Nice. Putin’s Russian asset can always be counted on to do whatever’s best for Russia, whether it’s destroying American farms, lifting sanctions for Putin’s criminal oligarchs or surrendering in Syria. At some point, you have to start asking yourself why you are defending your abuser. But I digress.
The Chinese-backed bailout, which was supposed to save the farmers, is a total bust. The foreign-owned farms, which for some reason Trump is also trying to bail out, will likely survive. Meanwhile, the American farmers can’t even access the money as the Agriculture Department’s offices are closed during the shutdown.
All of this over an idiotic, ineffective, ultra-expensive border beaded curtain which, due to mountainous and river terrain, not to mention land ownership lawsuits, will never get built. The ultimate irony here is that rural farms are the most dependent on undocumented immigrant labor.
Although farmers are still a solid part of the GOP base, many are coming to the same realization as the people who have known Trump all along have been saying: Trump is a con-man, and he is not your friend.
“A lot of people say we are the pawns in the game,” Ericson said on his 2,500-acre soybean farm in Wimbledon, a town of roughly 200 in eastern North Dakota. “And pawns are never left on the board at the end of the game.”
We tried to warn you.
Some Trump dead-enders may want to console themselves by saying at least farmers in California—their most hated state—are hurting as well. True, but as a Trump supporter so astutely put it, Trump is “not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
It seems California farmers are in a much better position to cope with the shutdown:
…things are sunny so far in California.
California growers “are used to operating with limited federal government oversight,” said Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual CEO and USDA adviser. “Here in California, we have such a robust CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) that we aren’t missing the federal government yet.”
Josh Rolph, California Farm Bureau’s manager of federal policy, agreed.
“The shutdown will have no big impact (on California ag) in the short-term,” he said. “Most growers are not directly affected unless they’re getting tariff or commodity payouts.”
Yeah, that thing about fair taxation of high-income earners and multi-billion dollar corporations? They actually PAY for stuff everyone needs.
California is thriving. They have a budget surplus, the best schools, robust infrastructure, and, in this case, a cushion for their farmers to get them through the tantrum of a deranged moron given executive power by the red states.
Despite all of this, I’m not bitter to those farmers who supported him. Many have been hurting for years and were given a choice in 2016: a showman who promised them the moon and an establishment candidate who essentially ignored them. Only now are they seeing how much worse things can get when you elect a swindling sociopath.
Although I’m a huge believer that you win elections by focusing on your base, I also believe that you need to compete everywhere to grow. Rural areas have been devastated by the shutdown, even the non-farming ones. (Many rural communities have federal prisons that are the lifeblood of their economy, and none of them are getting paid right now.) They know it’s Trump, backed by a complicit GOP, that is responsible for both the trade war with our allies and the government shutdown.
The point here? Her name is Lauren Underwood.
She is a 31-year old African-American woman who just won a “safe” red district in Illinois that has large swaths of rural farmland. She didn’t just visit the suburbs in the district, but also visited the farms she was told was a waste of time. She recounted many of them saying that no candidate had ever knocked on their door. She talked real solutions—expanding healthcare coverage they need and promising to work towards expanding trade, rather than shutting it all down. It worked, and this lady flipped the district in one of our many success stories Nov. 6.
It was still very close, and we aren’t going to win these areas over anytime soon, but we can damn sure make a dent into one the GOP’s most reliable voting blocs. That’s really all we need to do to win; and in return, our farmers will get Democrats in office who will spend time looking out for them instead of a dangerous narcissist. Donnie Trump has actually opened the door for us, thanks to a potent combination of his extreme incompetence and selfishness.
We just need to take the first step through.