The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
My family has been farming in Dane County for 120 years, and I’m proud to run our century farm with my brother. We farm over 800 continuous acres across two townships.
The battleground state of Wisconsin will once again play a critical role in the upcoming Presidential election, and President Trump is heavily focusing on it in the final stretch of the race. This Thursday, the President, who is relying on rural and suburban voters to win a second term, will hold an event in Mosinee. These same voters, however, have also borne the brunt of the President’s trade war with China, and could ultimately send former Vice President Joe Biden to the White House instead.
The President won the Badger State by just 23,000 votes in 2016, so the importance of Wisconsin is not lost on either campaign. Both Trump’s and Biden’s campaigns have visited the state heavily in recent months in an effort to win over key voting blocs. Unfortunately for the President, he continues to trail Vice President Biden. Biden has the opportunity to win Wisconsin if the President does not change his position on trade.
President Trump was elected on the promise of standing up to China and revitalizing domestic industries. He started the trade war with China to bring manufacturing jobs back home. The Administration’s tariffs did play a role in ultimately bringing China to the negotiating table to sign the Phase One Trade Deal. However, President Trump may not realize that these tariffs are a tax on the American people that disproportionately impacts his base.
Tariffs Hurt The Heartland, a coalition of farmers, manufacturers, and businesses against tariffs, found that the United States has paid more than $57 billion dollars in tariffs. What’s worse is that nearly 100 percent of the costs associated with tariffs have been paid by American consumers and farmers, significantly impacting Wisconsin’s entire agricultural sector. China retaliated by putting tariffs on agriculture products going into their country from the United States, which make our goods even more expensive – and less desirable – to them. It reduces demand for American products.
The trade war has made it difficult for many Wisconsin farms to get by, a struggle that we’re used to facing. Since President Trump took office, over 2,000 of Wisconsin’s dairy farms have been forced to close their barn doors, making the state number one in the country for farm bankruptcies. For many farmers, casting a vote for President Trump was their last hope.
Unfortunately, the agriculture bailouts that President Trump has promoted didn’t help the small and mid-sized farms as much as it did the largest farms. Michael Slattery, an economist at the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said that the trade program has also fallen short for small soybean producers, putting them at a further disadvantage to larger agricultural companies. According to Slattery, the last round of subsidy payments only made up for roughly half of the income lost from tariffs.
President Trump may have started the trade war with good intentions, as China has taken advantage of American workers, products, and intellectual property for years. But with the implementation of his tariffs, the President is hurting American workers. If the President wants to win reelection, his priority should be to end the trade war and the tariffs that are crushing American businesses and farms.
Likewise, if Vice President Biden wants to earn the support of rural America, he must declare that he will end President Trump’s tariffs on China. Despite his decades already spent in Washington, this is a fresh opportunity for him to signal to voters both in Wisconsin and around the country that he understands the harm tariffs have caused and will stand up for America’s heartland if they send him to the White House.
–Duerst lives in the town of Verona and runs an 800-acre century farm in Dane County.