Before a rally in Fargo in June, President Donald Trump addressed farmers who were nervous that his tariffs would cause a major dent in agriculture exports. “Your farmers, your people, are going to be great,” he said. “So we have things cooking now. You’re going to be so happy.”
Those tariffs are now in place. Farmers such as myself are starting to see the result. We don’t have much to celebrate when it comes to prices for our commodities. Prices for soybeans, which we grow on our family farm in Mapleton, are down almost 30 percent. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that tariffs could cost Minnesota half a billion dollars in exports, including about $100 million in agriculture exports and more than $26 million in soybean exports alone.
Peter Navarro, the White House Trade Advisor, called the cost of those tariffs a “rounding error.” I would have suggested a different term. If President Trump and other leaders in Washington don’t change course soon, Minnesota farms, livestock growers, and manufacturers are going to pay a catastrophic price for the country’s misguided trade policies.
I recently joined with an organization called Farmers for Free Trade to start a new campaign called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland in order to tell the stories of farmers, manufacturers, and workers across Minnesota and across the country. Our goal is to communicate directly to President Trump that tariffs have real, widespread consequences for everyday Americans.
We understand the need to negotiate better trade policies, especially with China, but we can’t afford sacrifice already tight agricultural markets in the meantime.
Many of us support President Trump. We voted for him, we helped send him to the White House, and we appreciate that he’s helped guide the economy in the right direction. But tariffs and trade wars can quickly reverse all of our recent growth and do real damage in states like Minnesota. We’re hopeful he will hear us when we tell him how much damage tariffs will cause our state and other farm and manufacturing states across the country.
If he wants farmers to be happy, he should reverse course on tariffs right away.
American agriculture exports are expected to total $140 billion this year. Policies that hurt our ability to sell crops overseas will put a real dent in the U.S. economy. The administration has acknowledged the potential damage by announcing a $12 billion payout program for farmers and livestock producers administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That money might temporarily ease pain for a small fraction of farmers who can’t sell their crops, but it won’t reverse the damage done to our businesses, our markets, or the long-term stability and predictability the industry needs in order to plan for the future. That’s why the near-universal reaction from farm leaders in response to the Administration’s plan was a call for “trade, not aid.”
Farm prices are already tight and business costs continue to rise. For many farmers, loans are coming due in the next few months. Disappearing markets and plummeting prices only make it harder for farmers to succeed, and many of us will continue paying the price for tariffs long after the USDA program makes its last payments.
We are not a rounding error. Along with many hardworking Americans, we help drive the country’s economy and many of us voted for and support the president. But the trade war comes with steep costs, and if the president doesn’t change direction, rural America will be left to pay the bill.
Kristin Duncanson operates a family farm in Mapleton. Farmers for Free Trade describes itself as a bipartisan organization started by former Sens. Richards Lugar, R-Ind., and Max Baucus, D-Mont. The American Soybean Association recently joined the organization.