President Donald Trump has a misplaced view of his standing with American farmers. During a speech last week to a farmers convention in Tennessee, Trump boasted bizarrely, “Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”
He should ask a farmer about NAFTA.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement if it isn’t renegotiated to get more favorable terms. But as far as American farmers are concerned, he couldn’t be more wrong.
Agriculture is one area where the balance has worked overwhelmingly in America’s favor. In 2016, for example, American farmers exported an estimated $41 billion in agricultural products to Mexico and Canada. Exports of soy and corn — crucially important to Missouri and Illinois agriculture — have quadrupled since NAFTA went into effect in 1994.
As NAFTA talks sputter following seven rounds of unsuccessful negotiations, Mexican buyers are growing reluctant to sign long-term contracts with American agricultural exporters. Argentina and Brazil stand ready to fill the gap. Mexico announced that it planned to import 30,000 metric tons of wheat in December from Argentina, Politico reported, describing it as a test in case Mexico needs a Plan B.
Trump says he’s trying to get farmers a fairer deal. “To level the playing field for our great American exporters — our farmers and ranchers, as well as our manufacturers — we are reviewing all of our trade agreements to make sure they are fair and reciprocal — reciprocal, so important,” Trump said.
Reciprocity? American farmers export anywhere from 10 to 4,000 times the agricultural products to Mexico that Mexico exports to America, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures.
Farmers are worried. “If we lose Mexico as a customer, it will be absolutely devastating to the ag economy,” Philip Gordon, a longtime farmer of wheat, corn and soybeans in Michigan, told The New York Times in April.
Corn stockpiles are growing and driving down prices amid the prolonged uncertainty, according to a webcast posted last month by the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
Trump also made it sound as though he could wave a magic wand and bring broadband internet service to the estimated 23 million rural Americans who lack high-speed access. The cost would be around $10 billion, which would come on top of the $1 trillion price tag for Trump’s proposed national infrastructure upgrade, plus the $21.6 billion that the Department of Homeland Security estimates a border wall would cost, plus the $1 trillion price tag for his recent tax-cut package.
In the big list of Trump priorities, we suspect that the president is talking a good game but will deliver something markedly more disappointing to his rural supporters. America’s farmers are so lucky he’s giving them that privilege.
This editorial was written by the editorial staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The editorial does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.