Executive Briefings

Trade War Prospect Shakes Part of Trump Base: Midwest Farmers

Snow and sleet were falling on Eldon Gould’s 500 acres last week, but he was already looking ahead to planting season; depending on ground conditions and the temperature, that could be just several weeks away.

But now the prospect of steel and aluminum tariffs was adding to the list of worries and uncertainties that come with every corn and soybean season.

“It’s the retaliation risk,” Gould said from his kitchen table in Maple Park, in a region of northern Illinois where farmland runs on for miles.

“The world’s already awash in grain,” Gould said, “and then if you lose a key customer — it’s big. They’re going to go somewhere else to buy it.”

That’s a tangible threat throughout the Midwest, which accounts for roughly half the nation’s agricultural output, a prime target in any tit-for-tat response to the tariffs announced by President Trump. Unlike the rest of the economy, farms deliver a trade surplus for the United States, and a trade war could put barriers around lucrative markets.

Gould, 76, is a longtime Republican, and like large numbers of farmers, he voted for Trump. But several of the president’s policy positions, like curtailing crop insurance, have run counter to agricultural interests — and perhaps none more than trade.

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But now the prospect of steel and aluminum tariffs was adding to the list of worries and uncertainties that come with every corn and soybean season.

“It’s the retaliation risk,” Gould said from his kitchen table in Maple Park, in a region of northern Illinois where farmland runs on for miles.

“The world’s already awash in grain,” Gould said, “and then if you lose a key customer — it’s big. They’re going to go somewhere else to buy it.”

That’s a tangible threat throughout the Midwest, which accounts for roughly half the nation’s agricultural output, a prime target in any tit-for-tat response to the tariffs announced by President Trump. Unlike the rest of the economy, farms deliver a trade surplus for the United States, and a trade war could put barriers around lucrative markets.

Gould, 76, is a longtime Republican, and like large numbers of farmers, he voted for Trump. But several of the president’s policy positions, like curtailing crop insurance, have run counter to agricultural interests — and perhaps none more than trade.

Read full article