June 16, 2019
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Democrats should visit farm communities

Charlie Neibergall | AP
Charlie Neibergall | AP
In this Monday, March 4, 2019, photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the Future Farmers of America and Johnston High School students in Johnston, Iowa. President Donald Trump’s willingness to engage in international trade fights has set off volleys of retaliatory tariffs that are driving down the price of pork, corn and soybeans in Iowa and elsewhere. Pompeo sought to calm some of those nerves Monday even as he warned that Chinese theft of technology affects agriculture, too. “The good news is this _ help is on the way,” Pompeo said.

Bloomberg confirms that President Donald Trump is causing the most pain in areas of the country that were the most supportive of his 2016 campaign.

“Personal income for farmers fell by the most in three years in the first quarter, and losses to U.S. agriculture are mounting from Trump’s trade wars.

“The Commerce Department on Monday cited the steep decline in farm proprietors’ income as a key factor weighing on the nation’s overall personal income growth in March, even though agricultural producers represent only about 2 percent of total employed Americans.”

That last statistic is true, but the services that support them, the local governments that depend on their tax revenue and the communities in which farmers live feel real economic pain. On this, they have only Trump to blame. “One-time subsidy payments from the Trump administration to compensate producers for some of their trade-war losses helped prop up farm income in the previous quarter, but earnings plunged by an annualized $11.8 billion in the January to March period, according to seasonally adjusted data,” Bloomberg reports. The president and his staff can make all the empty promises they like, but the president’s actions continue to inflict pain on these Americans. “Trump’s budget cuts would lower federal subsidies for crop insurance and small growers. The spending plan for 2020 he submitted for Congress would reduce subsidies for crop insurance premiums to 48 percent from 62 percent and limit current subsidies for growers who make less than $500,000 annually.”

Then there is the impact of extreme weather, a byproduct of climate change, which Trump and his willfully ignorant supporters deny. Climate change didn’t begin with Trump, but climate-change denial as an official policy did. Meanwhile, record flooding continues in the Midwest and will only worsen with time.

Democrats have been looking for the key to unlocking the rural vote. This, however, should be a layup for them. Other than progressive protectionists who rather like trade wars, Democratic contenders should be at every farm and farm town in Iowa, as well as a lot of other states where agriculture is a critical part of the overall economy (e.g., Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio).

Here, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — who presents herself as the candidate from the heartland — has a leg up. Her home-state newspaper, the Star Tribune, reported on a visit to Iowa by Klobuchar in late March: “The Democratic candidate for president showed the kind of fluency with small-town concerns that has helped her again and again defy her party’s declining fortunes in rural America.”

Klobuchar will be quick to remind you that, during her Senate reelection campaign, she won a slew of rural conservative counties. “I have won every single congressional district, including Michele Bachmann’s three times in a row,” she often says, referring to the conservative former representative from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

Klobuchar can pull off visits to small towns and rural areas because she knows agriculture (she sits on the Agriculture Committee) and the people who work in it. She knows the ins and outs of soybeans and dairy farms. Not every candidate is going to be at ease stomping around a farm, but there are plenty of town halls, Farm Bureau meetings and 4-H events.

The argument is easy: Trump talks a good game, but he has inflicted financial pain on rural America (all the while supporting plans to raise their health care costs). Any candidate could put together a common-sense package of proposals: ending the seemingly forever trade wars, working to lower prescription drug costs, focusing on climate change, helping — as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has done — fund education (remember that recent teacher strikes have hit red states), expanding broadband coverage and making sure rural areas get their fair share of infrastructure projects.

Trump claims that urban elites don’t “respect” rural America. In fact, it’s Trump who treats them like rubes — taking their votes and then picking their pockets.



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