Trump’s economic policy makes Texas farmers nervous

by | Sep 4, 2019 | 2020 Elections, Economy

President Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has Wall Street on edge and has sent the Dow on a roller coaster over the past month. And farmers across the U.S., and especially in Texas, are feeling the impact of the president’s economic policy toward China. 

So far, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of Chinese goods and China has returned the ‘favor’ on more than $110 billion goods, according to the BBC

Tony Payan, who leads the Baker Institute Center for the United States and Mexico, said Trump’s trade wars– including his threatened trade war with Mexico– have introduced uncertainty to financial markets around the world. “I think all of this is completely unnecessary, it hurts companies, it hurts consumers, it hurts the international trading system.”

Gary Joiner, a spokesperson for Texas Farm Bureau, a group that represents more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers, described the attitude of Texas farmers over the trade war as “nervous” and “concerned.”

“They do understand the nature of the impasse, they understand the goals of the administration,” Joiner told The Signal. “They’re patient– to a point– and allowing this process to work through … But trade victories are needed, and needed now.”

Data from American Farm Bureau found that exports from U.S. farmers to China have dropped significantly since 2017. One of the biggest Texas crops hit has been cotton, the state’s most-grown crop representing 9 percent of agricultural receipts. Texas exports $477 million worth of cotton to China annually. 

On average, somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of a farmer’s income is export-related, Joiner said. To give other Texans a better idea, he said that every third row of a farmer’s harvest is sold abroad.

Anxiety around Trump’s economic policy could have political repercussions.

“The state of the economy is the single biggest factor in determining whether the president is reelected, and right now, it feels like they are riding a rubber ducky into alligator-infested waters,” Michael Steel, a former top aide to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, told Politico. 

Regarding Trump’s subsidies for farmers aimed at easing the economic impact of the trade war– including $12 billion in 2018 and $16 billion in 2019– Joiner said Texas farmers were grateful for the subsidies but they haven’t been enough to offset losses. 

“It’s not making them whole, it’s not replacing dollar for dollar what potentially those markets represent in terms of income, but it is helping them pay some bills and continue to operate and survive another year,” Joiner said. “Some will not. Some will say this is just not enough and they’re at a position where they have to decide if they can go forward [with farming].”

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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