Perhaps the group of voters hurt most by Trump’s tariff announcements have been farmers in states that voted for Trump in 2016. And since many of these states have senators up for reelection in November, the ill-advised tariffs might possibly cost the GOP control of the U.S. Senate.
There is no question that retaliation by Mexico and other buyers of U.S. agricultural products could cost Republicans bigly in the midterm elections. Most of the big farm states went for Trump in 2016 and their economies are already taking a hit because of the president’s tariff announcements which sent shockwaves through his GOP supporters.
The Des Moines Register reported over the weekend that concerns over retaliatory tariffs from Mexico have cost Iowa pork producers over $500 million. They said these farmers might get hit again because Mexico is threatening to impose a new 20 percent tariff on hams and pork shoulders from the U.S.. This could devastate the Iowa economy.
Iowa is the largest pork producer in the U.S., according to Gregg Hora, the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Hora told the Register that the threatened tariffs are “potentially devastating news for Iowa’s pig farmers and the rural Iowa economy.”
Iowa produces nearly $5 billion worth of pork each year, over three times more than the second largest pork producing state. To say pork exports are important to the state’s economy is an understatement. What Trump is doing may cause thousands of small farmers to file for bankruptcy, especially because they are also paying higher interest rates on farm loans and higher gasoline prices to run their farm equipment.
Mexico is the the largest export market for American pork, although Iowa pork is also sent to China and the European Union. Any new tariffs will put a major financial strain on pork producers.
This latest report from the Register concerning pork is consistent with news concerning exports of other agricultural products that U.S. farmers send to Canada, Mexico, China and Europe. Corn and soybeans are other big Iowa export products and those farmers have also been hit hard by retaliation against Trump’s tariffs.
Not only is Iowa a swing state in presidential elections (it went for Obama twice before going for Trump) it also has at-risk Republican officeholders — the governor and at least one GOP congressman are at risk.
Many other “red” agricultural states — like North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — have Democratic senators up for reelection this year. The more Trump does to hurt farmers in those states the better the chances that Democrats will take over control of the U.S. Senate as well as the House.
The tariff threats from Mexico came after President Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. would impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU). Those other countries have threatened retaliation also, and have included agricultural products in their list of targets.
Donald Trump no doubt thinks he is a genius on trade but the truth is he is causing chaos in global markets and is hurting some of his most loyal supporters. The more he does to hurt farmers the greater the chance that his party will lose control of both houses of Congress in the November elections.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.