The Trump administration and its supporters say they’re playing hardball with the Chinese and other trading partners because it’s necessary to bring about trade reforms. American farmers, however, are among those paying the price — losing billions because of tit-for tat trade barriers.
Now the Trump administration is suggesting a temporary fix: a $12 billion care package for farmers.
Russell Boening is a farmer, rancher, and dairyman who’s also head of the Texas Farm Bureau. He says he and other Texas farmers are generally looking at the aid package optimistically.
“People are happy about it, a little apprehensive about how it’s going to be administered, but they’re glad to hear that something is being done,” Boening says.
The New York Times is reporting that the Trump administration’s tariffs have caused losses of about $13 billion, $1 billion less than what is currently being proposed. The losses have begun to raise questions about the sustainability of subsidizing the agriculture industry to this extent.
“We understand that this isn’t something that will be able to go on year after year,” Boening says. “We want those markets opened back up.”
Boening says the tariffs came at a time when farm income had been steadily declining for the past five years. He says the tariffs only added to that financial pain. Still, despite the benefit from the potential aid, he says farmers would prefer to earn their money on the marketplace, rather than getting it from the government.
“We want the trade situation to get straightened out,” Boening says. “We look at this as kind of a last resort option.”
Despite the worsening financial situation for farmers after the tariffs, Boening says he and other farmers still believe that what the Trump administration is doing is ultimately right.
“We still have trust in the administration that China probably needed to be called on,” Boening says.
Ultimately, Boening sees the proposed package as little more than a temporary band-aid.
“I don’t see the $12 billion going any farther than this year, and that may be a little conjecture on my part, knowing what we’ve lost in exports,” Boening says. “Hopefully as we work through this package we’ll get some of these trade deals done.”
Written by Kevin Wheeler.