The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Gwendolyne Honrud
Community Commentary 

Trade, Not Aid

Trade Conflict Looks to Play Long Game, But Uncertainty Still Looms for Some

 

September 5, 2018



“Trade, not aid.” Pull up a random news article on the current trade dispute/war (wording depending on one’s personal bias) and you’ll most likely come across this refrain. Agricultural producers across the country continue to stress they want to see an end to the escalating tariffs and retaliations occurring between the U.S. and China, and the uncertainty posed by ongoing negotiations and delays with Canada and Mexico.

Support for the administration remains high in red, farming communities, and optimism is currently winning over concerns about what a long, drawn-out trade war might bring. Political rhetoric on most issues has become quite polarized, but researching this particular topic in relation to farmers shows a more nuanced approach, an understanding that an all-out win in a trade war usually isn’t possible. Losses now may be offset by gains in the future. But will all family farms survive to reap those benefits?

Today is the first day farmers can apply for aid offered by the Trump administration, promoted as a salve to ease what they say is necessary pain now for long-term gain. Farmers express gratitude that the Trump administration has acknowledged farmers are facing immediate losses in income due to the trade conflicts and that they have taken steps to ameliorate those income drops. But farmers want to earn their money through hard work, not a government handout, and they also point out that the aid offered by the government is hardly adequate to cover the losses imposed on them. Furthermore, the money being offered to farmers is not from paying customers and markets, but from U.S. taxpayers, i.e., farmers themselves are paying in part for their own crops.

Further, some farmers are disappointed with subsidies offered, noting that one cent per bushel on corn is hardly sufficient to cover losses. Soybean prices are down 20 percent. China hasn’t purchased any Montana wheat since March.

With no quick resolution in sight, The Courier has scheduled an interview with Max Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China, former Montana Senator, and current co-director of Farmers for Free Trade, to discuss what may be on the horizon for local farmers. Look for this interview in next week’s edition of the paper.

 

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