Trump’s trade war looms over divided US farm belt ahead of vote
Chuck Wirtz voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, inspired by the then-political outsider, but the veteran Iowa hog farmer now has buyer’s remorse as the US Republican president’s trade policy exacts a heavy toll on his business.
Wirtz, 56, estimates the tariffs resulting from the US trade war with China and other nations have cost him $200,000 this year and forced the liquidation of part of his farm in northwestern Iowa.
“I was obviously wrong and I regret my vote,” said Wirtz, who says he is undecided ahead of the November 6 midterm elections that will decide whether Republicans continue to control the US Congress.
Some of the nation’s 3.2m illion farmers and ranchers, traditionally staunch Republicans, are wavering in this election because of the trade dispute with China, the main buyer of US soybeans and pork, interviews with nearly two dozen farmers showed.
Those interviews and a survey of 2,454 farmers by trade publication Farm Journal also point to a surprising generational split in agricultural areas. While younger producers largely believe in Trump’s pledge to cut a better trade deal with China and his administration’s patriotic appeal for short-term sacrifice, older farmers recall past economic crises and the years of work involved in opening the Chinese market.
Veteran farmers worry they will not be able to recover from a prolonged dispute with the world’s other economic superpower and are concerned the downturn will take too big a bite out of their retirement savings.
Barry Bean, a Missouri cotton marketer whose family sells crops, said that older producers have been cautioning their younger peers about the longer-term risks of the trade battle.
“They’re saying, ‘Look, I’ve taken two or three for the team in the past. We can’t keep taking one for the team.’”