Since the Trump administration announced this week that it will provide farmers with $12 billion in aid to offset the damage from the president’s burgeoning trade war, critics have raised a long list of potential problems with the plan.
Politico’s Catherine Boudreau details some of the biggest concerns, saying that the plan isn’t big enough to cover the losses farmers will experience as countries slap new penalties on American agricultural goods — a point made by many critics this week, including plenty of farmers. "It's a Band-Aid on a broken leg," Michael Petefish, a Trump-supporting farmer in Minnesota, told CNN.
Worse, Boudreau warns that the plan could permanently damage the farm sector in the long run as higher prices for U.S. goods provide competing nations with an opportunity to boost their presence in global markets.
Previous efforts to protect U.S. farmers have backfired, Boudreau says, citing the Carter administration’s blockade of the Soviet Union in protest of the invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 and the Nixon administration’s restrictions on soybean exports in 1973. The latter was intended to protect farmers from rising feed costs but ended up opening the door for Brazil to increase its share of the global export market. Brazil is now one of the world’s top soybean exporters.
Another problem is the more basic issue of trust and dependability. Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, told Boudreau that “farmers’ biggest fear is this could put the United States in the category of an unreliable supplier,” which could make it hard to recover lost customers. “We’ve put a lot of time, effort and energy into building markets like China,” said Stuart Woolf, a farmer in California. “We’re constantly trying to build trust with our strategic partners. With this administration, there doesn’t seem to be any strategic partners,” Woolf added.