Ohio farmers, hit hard by Trump's trade war, welcome policy shift

President Donald Trump has promised a $12 billion bailout for farmers in distress in the wake of his renegotiations with the European Union and other international trade partners.   File photo

Back in 2012, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was quoted by Politifact.com as saying agriculture was the state’s healthiest industry, contributing $105 billion to the economy, according to data from The Ohio State University.

Fast forward six years and the ag sector nationwide as well as in Ohio is facing a 50 percent revenue slump that began in 2013, according to a report on Agriculture.com. Compounding the tough conditions are new tariff policies set by the White House that threaten to destabilize the ability for U.S. farmers to compete in international markets.

Joe Cornerly, senior director of corporate communications for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, told the Ohio Business Daily the state’s crop prices have been especially hard hit.

“Since the threat of a trade war began heating up this spring, farmers have seen about a 20 percent drop in soybean and corn prices,” Cornely said. “Ohio State's ag economists say the tariffs could cut farm income by nearly 60 percent.”

To cushion the impact, President Donald Trump has promised a $12 billion bailout for farmers in distress in the wake of his renegotiations with the European Union and other international trade partners, according to a CNBC report.

Concerns over the trade war’s impact on farmers has spurred the creation of Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a campaign launched by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Farmers for Free Trade group. So far, the campaign has aired TV spots aimed at telling the president and lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the negative impact of the tariff war.

Scott Henry, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer in Des Moines, Iowa, was critical of the president’s rescue plan.

“Our family understands what’s needed for American agriculture to continue to flourish – and it’s not bailouts,” Henry, a partner in Longview Farms, said. “Policy interference and restricted market access are two surefire ways to hamper innovation and long-term growth.”

But having a targeted campaign against the White House with midterm elections so close raises the idea that this could be a partisan attack against the president’s already controversial presidency.

Cornerly of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation stressed, however, that the issue cuts across the political spectrum.

“Trade is not a partisan issue,” Cornerly said. “Farmers, business owners, workers and families are the beneficiaries of fair and open trade. I believe you'll find politicians of all parties who agree with that view.”

Cornerly added that while the bailout program showed the president’s willingness to compromise, more needs to be done.

“I think farmers appreciate that the president recognizes the impact this trade war is having on the agricultural industry,” he said. “We cannot risk a long-term loss of markets that have taken decades to develop.  We are delivering that message at every opportunity to the administration and our members of Congress.”

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