By Kalena Bruce
How will farmers vote in the upcoming midterm election?
Seventy percent of farmers supported President Trump in 2016, according to exit polls. But much has been made in recent months about our continued support in the face of Trump’s tariffs and the inevitable retaliation by our trading partners.
Yet what journalists fail to understand — likely because few, if any, come from farming communities — is that farmers are used to operating on long time horizons. Farmers and ranchers are forward thinking individuals. We plant a seed, watch it grow for months, harvest it, and then usually store it until we can receive a better market price.
To stay profitable in this environment you always have to be thinking ahead. There is no such thing as instant gratification on the farm.
The same can be said about public policy. While Democrat politicians promise quick fixes, including $15 minimum wages, an infrastructure stimulus, Medicare-for-all, and federal job guarantees, they overlook the long-term consequences of such short-term thinking. The fiscal and moral implications of such socialist-tinged policies are something that farmers, who understand the work-reward tradeoff better than most, keenly recognize.
In contrast to most politicians who fall back on policies that promise instant gratification, President Trump is a businessman who knows how to think several steps ahead. This is why rural Americans identify with him so much.
When it comes to tariffs, farmers recognize that short-term pain is needed for long-term gain. We understand that unfair trade agreements weren’t created overnight and therefore they won’t all be renegotiated overnight either.
The President tweeted that “farmers have not been doing well for 15 years. Mexico, Canada, China and others have treated them unfairly. By the time I finish trade talks, that will change. Big trade barriers against U.S. farmers, and other businesses, will finally be broken. Massive trade deficits no longer!”
Missouri has the second highest number of farms in the country, but ranks 13th in terms of net farm income. According to the USDA, in 2008 Missouri’s net farm income was over $3.2 billion dollars. By 2015 the state’s net farm income had dropped to $1.5 billion.
Unfair trade practices and cheating by trading partners injure the backbone of the American economy, agriculture. Between 2013 and 2016, farming income in the U.S. as a whole plummeted by almost half, from $120 billion to $62 billion. That’s a remarkable and shameful outcome of damaging trade policies.
It’s no coincidence that at the same time, China illegally exceeded permitted spending levels on promoting corn, rice, and wheat by over $100 billion in a single year. Other countries also dedicate significant promotional resources that support their agriculture sectors. America, on the other hand, has been among the lowest ranked nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of supporting its agricultural sector
Fixing the trade imbalance is just one way in which President Trump is protecting the future of America’s farms. The President also supports passing a new Farm Bill that will provide a strengthened safety-net for American ranchers and farmers, and provide funding for critically-needed promotions of U.S. agricultural products abroad.
Here in Missouri, Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley understands farmers and our mentality. His family farms. He’s worked on that family farm. And he understands our hardships. He has experience as our state attorney general fighting federal government overreach that often threatens farmers.
For instance, Hawley has fought hard against the EPA’s 2015 Waters of the United States rule that threatened Missouri farmers’ livelihood by placing every lake, pond, and stream in the country under federal control. If this rule took effect, farmers wouldn’t be able to use the standing water on their properties without threat of federal criminal and civil prosecution. We need his vote in the Senate to protect state residents against such federal land-grabs and overreach in the future.
Farmers reap what they sow. And they appreciate politicians who do the same. For this reason, I predict farmers will turn out heavily for Republicans again on Election Day and urge you to do the same.
Kalena Bruce is a fifth-generation farmer and CPA in southwest Missouri