Farmers fall in for trade war

MADRID, Iowa — Iowa farmer Tim Bardole survived years of low crop prices and rising costs by cutting back on fertilizer and herbicides and fixing broken-down equipment rather than buying new. When President Donald Trump’s trade war with China made a miserable situation worse, Bardole used up any equity his operation had and started investing in hogs in hopes they’ll do better than crops.

A year later, the dispute is still raging and soybeans hit a 10-year-low. But Bardole says he supports his president more today than he did when he cast a ballot for Trump in 2016, skeptical he would follow through on his promises.

“He does really seem to be fighting for us,” Bardole says, “even if it feels like the two sides are throwing punches and we’re in the middle, taking most of the hits.”

Trump won the presidency by winning rural America, in part by pledging to use his business savvy and tough negotiating skills to take on China and put an end to trade practices that have hurt farmers for years. While the prolonged fight has been devastating to an already-struggling agriculture industry, there’s little indication Trump is paying a political price. But there’s a big potential upside if he can get a better deal — and little downside if he continues to get credit for trying for the farmers caught in the middle. It’s a calculation Trump recognizes heading into a reelection bid where he needs to hold on to farm states like Iowa and Wisconsin and is looking to flip others, like Minnesota.

A March CNN/Des Moines Register poll of registered Republicans in Iowa found 81% approved of how Trump is handling his job, and 82% had a favorable view of the president, an increase of 5 points since December.

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