A Minnesota farmer broke down while speaking about the impact of President Donald Trump’s trade war on her family and the financial concerns that have come along with it.
Trump’s attempt to renegotiate trade relations with China has driven consumer prices up, generated global economic uncertainty and forced businesses to alter long-standing relations. Farmers, who sent $5.9 billion worth of farm product exports to China in 2018 and $19.5 billion worth in 2017, have been particularly impacted, as China has leveled retaliatory tariffs against U.S. agricultural products.
After Trump announced earlier this month that he intended to levy new tariffs against China on September 1 in an escalation of his trade war, Beijing responded by halting all agricultural imports from the U.S.
The rising escalation of the trade war with China has worried some farmers, who have expressed concerns about the impact on their financial stability. Even though Trump has offered $28 billion in bailouts to farmers, the leaders of some prominent farm organizations have said that Trump is causing lasting damage to their industry.
“I sometimes stay up at night worrying about what the future does hold. You know, what do you tell your children that want to farm? Do you tell them ‘go find something else to do’? One of our sons already has,” Cindy VanDerPol, a Minnesota farmer, told CNN on Thursday, tearing up. “You don’t know what the future’s going to bring, you almost want to encourage them to go do something else.”
The trade war has led to a flurry of farmers in the Midwest declaring bankruptcy, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis from February. News reports have also noted farmers saying that colleagues are contemplating suicide.
Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, called China’s recent decision to halt agricultural imports a “body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by.”
The FDIC noted that “global exports remain a concern for farmers and lenders. In addition, the appreciating dollar has made U.S. agricultural goods more expensive relative to competitors, which may put additional downward pressure on agricultural export volume and incomes in the near term,” in its 2019 risk review.
Representatives from the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association confronted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue while he was speaking at a forum last week.
Even so, farmers, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election, still think that the trade war will positively impact the agricultural industry. Seventy-nine percent of farmers approve of Trump, according to the Farm Pulse Survey. And 78 percent think that the trade war will benefit the agriculture industry, according to the latest data from the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture.