Ag-Ruminating About Trade Not Aid

I’m sure it makes some people unhappy to hear the President, the Ag Secretary, and others in the Administration making promises that farmers will get help from the government if the current confrontation with China over trade policy escalates and higher tariffs wind up pricing U.S. ag goods out of the Chinese market. There have been some suggestions and hypothesizing about how help for farmers might be given – maybe a buyout of goods that would have otherwise gone to China or some kind of subsidies –  but no firm details are available as of yet. Whatever the Administration has in mind, however, taxpayers will pay the price. And I can understand why that would upset some folks.

Even though I am a taxpayer, I actually believe such help would be justified. If you look back over history, you will see that our ag producers always tend to be the number one victim whenever our government is in conflict with somebody else’s government and one side or the other decides to weaponize trade. The hardship our farmers suffered as a result of President Carter’s ill-conceived grain embargo on Russia back in 1980 is perhaps the most notorious example. But, it’s not always the actions of our government leaders that causes problems. Even though they might try to camouflage their real motives behind claims of food safety concerns or something such as that, other countries often erect barriers against imports of U.S. meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables in an effort to gain leverage against our country on political matters completely unrelated to agricultural commerce.

So, yes, I see justification for helping farmers if worse comes to worst with China. Interestingly enough, however, the idea of payments to compensate for lost trade isn’t being embraced by the ag community with total enthusiasm. It seems farmers would prefer to keep the customers they’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Or as Steelee Fischbacher of Texas Wheat Producers told me in an interview few days ago:

Similar sentiments are now being expressed by leaders of the House and Senate ag committees, who are also pushing back against the aid instead of trade notion.

We continue to watch developments with the hope that this situation with China gets resolved harmoniously soon.



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