In Case You Missed It
Rural America Hopes Trump Hasn’t Forgotten His Promise
March 19, 2018
Every four years, politicians descend on small towns in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states across the country to kick off presidential campaign season. After those seeking the White House attend near-endless events and make countless promises, it is up to rural voters to decide who best represents their views.
After years of disappointment and broken promises, many voters have had good reason to be skeptical. But when now-President Trump visited these communities as a candidate and vowed to stand up for the agriculture industry, farming families were instilled with a new sense of hope.
It is why rural voters turned out in huge numbers to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket, with three-quarters of their votes supporting the Republican nominees. President Trump promised to bring back rural jobs, protect those that already exist and help solve problems, such as the opioid epidemic that has hit rural communities especially hard.
Few issues are as important to rural America than preserving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), something President Trump and his members of his cabinet understand. For instance, since NAFTA first took effect, agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have grown by 450 percent.
Increased agricultural activity — more crops grown, more equipment manufactured and more jobs created — is part of the $127 billion in annual economic activity in the U.S. that is estimated to result from NAFTA.
While his administration negotiates a better deal with Mexico and Canada on NAFTA that modernizes the agreement for the 21st century, we have concerns about whether this critical trade deal will remain in place based on recent tariffs levied on steel and aluminum imports.
In announcing his administration would implement a 25-percent tariff on steel imported to the U.S. and a 10-percent tariff on imported aluminum, America’s farmers could be the target of retaliatory measures by other countries restricting the export of products or losing markets altogether.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 33 percent of American agricultural exports went to the top aluminum-producing nations in 2017, and 39 percent went to the top steel-producing countries. This creates a prime target for countries looking to retaliate against the United States.
Rather than buying American-grown corn or soybeans, for instance, other countries can be expected to turn to other suppliers, with American farmers paying the price. This is why Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said recently the president’s actions are favoring the Rust Belt over the Farm Belt.
The president surely understands voters in the heartland remember the commitments he made on the campaign trail when he asked for their votes. Facts are facts, and pulling out of NAFTA would erase years of economic progress that has benefited rural communities across our nation.
These communities are already facing numerous challenges and withdrawing from NAFTA would directly harm the communities and voters President Trump promised to protect.
U.S. food and agricultural industries support 43 million American jobs, and they need President Trump to employ his negotiating skills and secure improvements to NAFTA without abandoning the deal.
While recent events raise concerns among America’s rural voters, we still believe the faith we placed in President Trump will serve us well.
He can improve NAFTA and ensure any tariffs do not result in retaliations against the agriculture industry that is feeding the world and helping drive America’s economy, which is just what farming families deserve and expect.
Nathan White is a row crop and cattle farmer who lives outside of Stet, Missouri. He is a member of both the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
To access the op-ed, click here.