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Trump: Farmers will understand if they get hurt in China trade spat

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE on Monday acknowledged that U.S. farmers could take a hit from trade disputes with China but said they will ultimately "understand" why the confrontation is necessary.

“But if we do a deal with China, if, during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that's nice. But I tell you, our farmers are great patriots,” Trump said.

“These are great patriots. They understand that they're doing this for the country," Trump said. "And we'll make it up to them. And in the end, they're going to be much stronger than they are right now.”

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He added that farmers have been “trending downward over an eight-year period” and said that, because of his actions on the North American Free Trade Agreement and China, “farmers will be better off than they ever were.” 

The Trump administration has moved aggressively to levy tariffs on China, including $50 billion in penalties proposed early last week. After China retaliated by proposing $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods, including soybeans, the White House late Thursday said Trump had ordered officials to look at another $100 billion in tariffs on China. 

Many farmers have expressed fear that their livelihoods could be impacted in the escalating trade war, given that China is a major market for agricultural exports, particularly soybean and sorghum.

The Farm Bureau said in a statement to The Hill that it has been unambiguous in its opposition to tariffs and support for free trade. 

"It’s our hope and expectation that both sides will eventually arrive at an agreement that does not include tariffs," a spokesperson for the Bureau said. "Whatever happens, you can be certain our policy will support the interests of farmers nationwide." 

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOvernight Energy: US greenhouse gas emissions fell in Trump's first year | EPA delays decision on science rule | Trump scolds California over wildfires Trump: California ‘better get their act together’ on wildfires The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy MORE told a town hall in Ohio that the president had told him that farmers would not be hurt by the ongoing trade dispute with China.

“I talked to the president as recently as last night,” Perdue said. “And he said, ‘Sonny, you can assure your farmers out there that we're not going to allow them to be the casualties if this trade dispute escalates. We're going to take care of our American farmers. You can tell them that directly.’ ”