No one wins a trade war. Despite this, Trump launched into one last year against China, which he had framed as America’s main economic existential threat since his campaign. While he now touts progress on a trade deal, you could say he’s bet the farm on it.
Important meetings and calls on China Trade Deal, and more, today with my staff. Big progress being made on soooo many different fronts! Our Country has such fantastic potential for future growth and greatness on an even higher level!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019
“I’ve been through several dips in 40 years,” said Nebraska farmer Kirk Duensing. “This one here is gonna kick my butt.”
Duensing filed for bankruptcy as a last resort. He plants crops for other farmers to try and make ends meet. He’s sold land and equipment. He’s still more than $1 million in debt. And he’s far from alone.
Bankruptcies for farms have been steadily rising. The Wall Street Journal reports that across three states heavily focused on agriculture, bankruptcies have reached their highest level in decades, nearly twice what they were in 2008. Farmers actually weathered the recession well, making this their first extreme downturn since the 1980s.
“We are seeing producers who are running out of options,” said Tim Koch, senior vice-president of Farm Credit Services of America — a bank which saw farm bankruptcy filings double in 2018.
That fiscal disaster come with a human cost, as American farmers have been killing themselves at an unprecedented rate.
This comes as a stinging betrayal to farmers that supported Trump by an overwhelming margin in 2016. But still more than half plan to vote for him again in 2020.
“We’re bleeding pretty badly,” said National Pork Producer’s Council president Jim Heimerl. “The Midwest elected our president. He has made many statements, realizing the red states in Midwest elected him. He promised to look after our farmers, but talk only goes so far.”
Trump was aware of the damage the trade war was going to do to farmers, and even turned to socialist policies to try to undo some of it leading up to the 2018 election. Of course, that didn’t exactly go to plan either.
And the Council on Foreign Relations has found that it would take 115 percent of the money Trump’s tariffs have generated to save the drowning agriculture industry.
“The U.S. government has already committed to paying out $1.2 billion more to angry American farmers than it will take in this year from angry American firms,” CFR found.
“By launching a trade war with China, therefore, the president has simultaneously raised taxes on U.S. companies and lost the government money.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.