I guess I should be getting used to this, since it keeps happening, but it still really burns my buns when activist groups, political leaders, the media and especially farm groups use farmers to advance their agendas.
One of the first I remember was Farm Aid, a movement that used the farm crisis of the 1980s to advance its socialistic and environmental agenda. Then came PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S., which used modern animal husbandry practices as a springboard to advance their anti-meat agenda.
The organic industry used the use of chemical crop protection products to increase their sales. Next there is the anti-science, GMO-free crowd that has been lying to the public for decades and reaping financial rewards. Now it is the anti-Trump trade groups’ turn.
When President Trump first slapped sanctions on China, there was a good deal of well-justified concern about the impact this would have on the farm economy. Much of the rhetoric focused on how farmers would be financially impacted and on the long-term market price outlook.
As we have moved closer to the midterm elections, the focus has metamorphosed into a campaign against the President. One of the main contributors to this politicization of the trade debate is an organization known as Americans for Free Trade.
This is a well-funded and well-financed “broad coalition of American businesses, trade organizations and workers united against tariffs,” according to their website. The listed members of this group include many agricultural trade groups, along with industry and service sector organizations – some of which have been hurt by the illegal trade engaged in by China, that prompted the tariffs.
This group has spun off a number of ag-related groups, including Farmers for Free Trade and, most recently, “Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.” These groups are focused exclusively on tariffs and ignore the reason the tariffs were imposed and the outcome of the current negotiations.
Day after day these groups churn out press releases, media advisories, op-ed pieces and print and broadcast ads that are being placed on media around the Midwest. Backed by a large PR agency, they are attempting to derail the Trump administration’s trade plan.
Is that really what we want? Do we really want the President to tweet: “Oh sorry, I was only kidding on those tariffs, never mind, just buy our soybeans and we’re all good” one day? This is not going to happen; in fact, the President actually tweeted over the weekend: “We are under no pressure to make a deal with China. They are under pressure to make a deal with us.”
What will and is happening is that with this issue tied to the fall elections, China is going to stall and wait to see what happens in November. It is important to keep in mind that the bad guy in this drama is China.
China is the one stealing U.S. agricultural and industrial technology, refusing to obey international trading rules and dumping surplus goods into the U.S. market. Trade is much too important to agriculture to be used simply as a way to get votes.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Gary Truitt may write to him in care of this publication.