Trump's tone-deaf appeal to farmers hurting from trade war: 'Greatest harvest is yet to come'

Trump's tone-deaf appeal to farmers hurting from trade war: 'Greatest harvest is yet to come'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE today appealed to America’s family farmers and ranchers, promising great things to come for the men and women who provide food, fuel and fiber for our nation. “The greatest harvest is yet to come,” he said. Yet, the sentiment could not have come off more tone deaf from a man who’s trade tactics have depressed an already troubled farm economy, pushing many family farmers into significant financial stress and even more out of business.

“Before I got here, it was heading south,” Trump said, referring to America’s ability to export agricultural products. He said those exports had seen a continuous decline over the past 15 years, despite USDA data showing agricultural exports nearly tripling.

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The truth is, for the past two years, American family farmers have taken the brunt of the administration’s trade wars. Retaliatory tariffs, lost trade relationships and unstable markets have pushed the American farm economy to its brink. In fact, the majority of farms have earned negative farm income in recent years, and many are being forced to sell the farm. The president must right the ship immediately, as farmers can no longer afford to hold out hope for “the greatest harvest.”

When Trump first took office, farmers and ranchers stood firmly behind his intent to fix America’s trade issues, namely our massive trade deficit with the rest of the world and a host of unfair trade tactics regularly employed by the Chinese government. To fix these issues would be to level the playing field for the American family farmer. Instead, our farmers and ranchers now find themselves playing from behind — see Brazilian farmers last year earning a $2 premium on their soybeans compared to U.S. producers — a direct result of Trump’s trade actions.

Trump’s trade tactics have alienated the United States. They have taken us from being a world leader to being a world agitator. From being a premier supplier to being a residual supplier. You see this embodied in the president’s go-it-alone approach with respect to encouraging fair trade with China. Rather than work with our top trading partners like Canada, Mexico, Japan and the European Union to address common grievances with China, we’ve offended all of our allies. Not only has this ruined positive trading relationships with trade allies, it has weakened our leverage to deal with the world’s shared trade aggressor, China.

The impacts of this approach have been disastrous for an already troubled farm economy. Markets that took decades to build were lost overnight. Our reputation as a reliable trading partner has been ruined, throwing into question our ability to build new markets for our products. More immediately, the volatility and loss of export markets for American farm goods continues to depress commodity prices across the board.

The markets that Trump’s trade wars have ruined will likely take decades to repair. It will take an alternative course of action to fix them, and that needs to start with information grounded in reality.

Farm exports are not increasing under this president’s administration, they are decreasing. Farm income is unsustainably low right now, and hardworking American men and women are losing their farms, their livelihoods and their way of living because of it. Until the president recognizes these facts, the “greatest harvest” is well around the corner, and many of our farmers won’t be around to realize it.

Roger Johnson is president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), a grassroots organization that represents nearly 200,000 family farmers, ranchers, fisherman and rural communities across the United States. Johnson is a third-generation farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota, and previously served as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner. Follow NFU on Twitter at @NFUDC.