Trump’s campaign made anti-trade a key part of his political messaging. During the campaign he talked about unfair trade and outsourcing of American jobs. However, Iowa agriculture and manufacturing have benefited from trade by increased exports. Now Trump’s anti-trade tirades are threatening Iowa exports and the rural economy.
Iowa Democrats have been nearly silent about the impact that a Trump trade war could have on Iowa exports and the Iowa economy. Many Iowans voted for Trump and the Republicans based on their promises to bring jobs back and rebuild rural Iowa. Now Trump’s trade policies threaten to alienate Iowa’s best export customers and devastate Iowa’s economy. Thousands of Iowans’ jobs are dependent on exports and Iowa’s rural economy lives and dies on the prosperity of Iowa agriculture.
Rural Iowans, many of whom voted for President Trump, are very worried about his trade war with our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. They’re not only our closest neighbors, they’re our biggest trading partners. Trump’s attacks are already forcing Canada and Mexico to reconsider the U.S. as a reliable partner.
In just the past 20 years, agricultural exports to Canada have tripled and exports to Mexico have quadrupled. Over 10% of all farm land is planted for export to Canada and Mexico. Mexico is the number one market for U.S. corn and the number two market for soybeans. Mexico is the largest market for American pork exports and number two for beef exports. These numbers demonstrate why rural Iowans are nervous about Trump’s ongoing trade war.
Mexican political leaders have already called for a boycott of U.S. corn, and have begun negotiating with Argentina and Brazil to import corn. The Mexican agricultural ministry has scheduled trade visits to Europe, Asia, and South America, including Brazil and Argentina to explore importing corn, grains and other products.
Canada announced multiple trade retaliations a few days after Trump placed a tariff on Canadian lumber imports. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau promised additional “tit-for-tat” retaliation for further attacks by Trump.
Iowa’s rural economy is largely dependent on the farm economy and it affects all Iowans. The huge cuts the Iowa legislature made to basic Iowa government services were the direct result of falling tax revenues. Losing exports would further weaken Iowa’s economy and result in more cuts to basic services. In order to fund education, clean up our water and rebuild rural Iowa, we must have the revenue from growing Iowa exports.
It’s not just Iowa agriculture that would suffer in a trade war. Iowa manufacturers export over 25% of their production as well.
All the main agricultural organizations have been warning the Trump Administration that his anti-trade talk is dangerous and threatens Iowa’s economic future. In February all the major representatives of Iowa’s commodity groups sent a letter to the Trump administration warning of the danger of a trade war. It was signed by the Iowa Corn Growers, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Pork Producers, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau. Their combined message to Trump was:
“For Iowa agriculture to thrive, we need trade agreements that recognize how important it is that the U.S. meat and grain industries, including beef, pork, corn, soybeans, and biofuels have market access at a competitive level in North America and across the globe …U.S. farmer’s productivity is on the rise, out pacing domestic demand, we are dependent that these markets continue to grow, or even harder economic times await Iowa farmers. Based on a U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate, for every $1 of agricultural exports, another $1.22 is generated in business activity.”
National and Iowa Democrats are missing an opportunity to reach out to rural Iowa. They’re speaking out about Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and defending immigrants from Trump’s attacks, but they’re failing to stand up for rural Iowans and Iowa agriculture. Isn’t that why Democrats lost rural America in 2016?
by Rick Smith