When the president's trade war began to hurt rural America, he used a huge chunk of his budget to issue a $28 billion bailout, which is twice of what the government loaned to the big three automakers. In the case of the automakers, the funds were paid back with interest and they did it earlier than expected. Farmers are not expected to pay back the government.
Bloomberg reported Monday that farmers caught up in Trump's trade war have come to rely on the government's bailouts to keep their farms alive when China isn't purchasing their crop.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has been the face of the Trump administration traveling from state to state and apologizing to farmers for the trade war.
“I sometimes see where these horrible dishonest reporters will say that ‘oh jeez, the farmers are upset.’ Well, they can’t be too upset, because I gave them $12 billion and I gave them $16 billion this year,” said Trump, who then added, “I hope you like me even better than you did in ’16," Trump told a room of farmers over Perdue's cell phone pressed to a microphone.
In August, Perdue was in Minnesota where he met Brian Thalmann, who serves as the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. He lamented that Trump’s claim that farmers are doing “great,” was a lie.
“We are not starting to do great again,” he said. “We are starting to go down very quickly.”
Rural communities would typically welcome Trump with cheers and applause, but after dealing with the trade war, support is quieter.
“The aid package that has come in is a relief, and it softens the landing, but it’s not a solution, it’s a Band-Aid,” Bloomberg quoted farmer Stan Born, who attended a Perdue event in Decatur, IL in late August.
When asked if the payments helped him break even, he said, “Of course not.” He’d prefer free trade.
The agriculture industry has been the collateral damage in a war between Trump and China on manufacturing, technology and intellectual property.
"Efforts to cultivate China’s appetite for American soybeans stretch back almost four decades," Bloomberg reported. "China’s purchases exceeded $12 billion in 2017, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. But they’ve pretty much dried up since the end of 2018, when China made goodwill buys as the two countries appeared to be close to a détente."
Sept. 1, Trump added additional tariffs on China to the tune of about $110 billion. China clapped back with its own tariffs on American-raised pork, beef, chicken and other goods. While the problems are isolated to mostly soybean farmers, it is spreading to ranchers and livestock farms.
"On Sept. 13, China’s state media reported that the country would exempt some American soybeans, pork, and other agricultural products from more tariffs," Bloomberg explained.
"Net farm income is projected to be down 29 percent this year from 2013 levels, and debt to total $416 billion," they calculated.