Data shows Trump trade war hurts American farmers

Grant Kimberley, a sixth-generation soybean farmer and marketing director of the Iowa Soybean Association, operates a seeding machine at his family farm in Maxwell, Iowa, the United States, April 26, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

“While the U.S. tariffs were intended to protect American industries, they have largely hurt the U.S. economy,” a recent report from the non-partisan Tax Foundation says.

by Peter Mertz

DENVER, the United States, June 1 (Xinhua) — Conservative American economists told Xinhua three years ago that the trade war started by former U.S. President Donald Trump would not work.

They were right.

“At the time, it was obvious that the Trump trade war strategy of unilaterally imposing tariffs on imports from China and other countries would blow up in that administration’s face,” said Vincent Smith, a highly regarded conservative agroeconomist at the University of Montana.

Smith, renowned in his field and a non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, told Xinhua Friday that true to most economic predictions, the Trump trade war with China was an economic disaster.

Trump’s approach toward correcting the trade imbalance between the United States and China was “another of several major economic follies pursued by the Trump Administration because of woeful and inexcusable ignorance about how the real world works on the part of the then president and some of his key advisors.”

Data supports Smith’s words.

“While the U.S. tariffs were intended to protect American industries, they have largely hurt the U.S. economy,” a recent report from the non-partisan Tax Foundation said. “And they incentivized foreign countries to retaliate with their own tariffs, which have damaged the economy even more,” it added.

DAMAGE DONE

In a report released earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) detailed the impact of retaliatory tariffs on farmers, state-by-state, “by estimating the direct export losses associated with the trade conflict.”

“In 2018, the United States imposed Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from major trading partners and separately Section 301 tariffs on a broad range of imports from China,” the January 2022 study recapped.

“In response to these actions, six trading partners – Canada, China, the European Union, India, Mexico, and Turkey – responded with retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. exports, including agricultural and food products. The agricultural products targeted for retaliation were valued at 30.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, with individual product lines experiencing tariff increases ranging from 2 to 140 percent,” USDA research showed.

The USDA estimated that between 2018-2019, the “retaliatory tariffs caused a reduction of more than 27 billion U.S. dollars (or annualized losses of 13.2 billion dollars) in U.S. agricultural exports,” and that the largest export losses occurred with diminished exports to China.

USDA data showed that Illinois and Iowa soybean farmers got hammered most with more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in losses each, while Kansas got crushed in sorghum sales with 478 million dollars in losses each year. Runner-up in sorghum losses was the Centennial State of Colorado.

The bulk of Colorado’s sorghum yield comes from the eastern counties of Baca, Prowers, Kiowa, and Cheyenne on its eastern border with Kansas, where Trump received between an overwhelming 81-88 percent of the popular vote, according to Politico.

“It’s ironic that Trump’s diehard, rural base got spanked worse by the tariffs than most Americans — they paid dearly for their loyalty to him,” said former Washington policy advisor David Richardson.

Nine of the top 11 states hit hardest by tariff losses went to Trump in the 2020 presidential election, and the other two (Illinois and Minnesota) that went to U.S. President Joe Biden saw their rural, conservative farmers in red counties hit hard by the tariffs.

U.S. states won by Trump in 2020 — Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota — suffered agricultural losses of more than 500 million dollars, while Texas and Arkansas lost more than 400 million dollars, according to the USDA.

The biggest losers “were largely concentrated in the Midwest with Iowa (1.46 billion dollars in annualized losses), Illinois (1.41 billion dollars in annualized losses), and Kansas (955 million dollars in annualized losses)” leading the field.

Trump won Iowa in 2020 by a 53-45 percent margin and Kansas by almost 15 points: 56-41.5 percent. Although Illinois, the second state most impacted by the tariffs went to Biden, the Prairie State’s southern two-thirds — rural and heavily agricultural in nature — voted decisively for Trump, according to Associated Press exit polls.

“At the commodity level, soybeans accounted for the predominant share of total trade loss, making up nearly 71 percent (9.4 billion dollars of annualized losses) of the total, followed by sorghum (over 6 percent or 854 million dollars in annualized losses), and pork (nearly 5 percent or 646 million dollars in annualized losses).”

The soybean losses hit Illinois and Iowa, the top two soybean producing states in America, the most. Meanwhile, Brazil’s farmers were rejoicing as their sales and profits skyrocketed.

“Countervailing tariffs imposed on key U.S. exports (most obviously soybeans) by those countries did the U.S. economy real harm and undercut the long-run credibility of the United States,” Smith added.