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Rural Blog: New poll shows most farmers, although fewer than before, still support Trump trade policy

According to a poll released this week, one in seven farmers who voted for President Trump would not vote for him today, mostly because of the escalating trade war with China. Though 60 percent of farmers overall still support him, that’s down from 75 percent in 2016. And 40 percent of the 924 respondents to the Farm Futures poll say Trump’s trade actions have permanently damaged agriculture, Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming.

Nevertheless, a large majority of farmers said they were willing to give Trump more time to work out trade deals, and believe that he will benefit their farms in the long-term, even if they’re suffering in the short term, Abbot reports. The poll was done from July 20 through Aug. 2; Trump announced $12 billion in aid for farmers on July 24.

Negative impact of Chinese competition per worker by congressional district, 2000-07. A value of 3.89, for example, means the value of Chinese imports increased by $3,890 per worker over that period. (Washington Post map)

One reason so many farmers support Trump’s trade policies may be that the Republican Party’s attitude on trade has been shifting toward a more protectionist, anti-China stance over the past two decades (75 percent of the poll’s respondents self-identified as Republican). The shift was triggered by China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, which hurt the U.S. manufacturing industry even though it benefitted the U.S. economy overall, John Kuk, Deborah Seligsohn, and Jiakun Zhang report for The Washington Post.

Republican politicians in hard-hit districts were more likely to blame China, not overall trade policy, for local woes in their posts, speeches and other communications with constituents. “Scapegoating China for the negative externalities of trade was convenient and let Republican legislators respond to voter concerns while continuing to support their party’s position on free trade,” the Post reports.

It’s not clear how much the trade war is hurting farmers, though the Department of Agriculture estimated $59.5 billion in net farm income for 2018 earlier this year, lower than 2016 and 2017, and less than half of the farm-income high in 2013, David Widmar notes for Successful Farming.

But soybean growers may see some relief soon: German oilseeds analyst Oil World said this week that China may have to start buying some U.S. soybeans again because other countries can’t supply enough to meet its needs, Reuters reports.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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