It's only been a few months since Trump stood in front of the Farm Bureau and told the crowd that his tax cuts would save them, but that feels like ancient history now.
China has responded to Trump's tariffs by retaliating against the American agricultural industry with the latest response targeting American beef, pork, soy beans, corn, wheat, and everything in between.
The Farm Bureau has now released a statement calling on Trump to back off and actually negotiate with the Chinese, but there's a problem with that.
“Farmers and ranchers are, by necessity, patient and optimistic. We know markets ebb and flow. But China’s threatened retaliation against last night’s U.S. tariff proposal is testing both the patience and optimism of families who are facing the worst agricultural economy in 16 years. This has to stop.
“Growing trade disputes have placed farmers and ranchers in a precarious position. We have bills to pay and debts we must settle, and cannot afford to lose any market, much less one as important as China’s. We urge the United States and China to return to negotiations and produce an agreement that serves the interests of the world’s two largest economies.”
The problem is that there is no problem. Trump will go to the negotiating table to fight imaginary slights and schemes that only exist in his head. Trump decried our "$500 billion" trade deficit with China just this morning, but our deficit with China was $288 billion in 2017. He doesn't know how big our deficit is or even why we have one.
Trump and his advisers have run into a similar dilemma during their negotiations with Mexico and Canada. The truth is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is not the source of all our problems and it's actually pretty good for American industries. It's difficult to negotiate upward from a position where you're already on top.
It's true that our trade deficits are expanding, but that's because the economy is in relatively good shape. Trade deficits are expanding because Americans are buying more shit than we produce. Consumer demand far out paces production in our service-based economy and so we turn to other countries to stock our shelves.
Trump cannot go to China and tell them to reduce our deficit because they aren't driving it. Trump would have to tell American consumers to stop shopping because we're the ones driving it.
The Farm Bureau should not hold their breath waiting for Trump to understand any of this. They should pour all of their resources into organizing against it. Lobby their congressmen and women and, if they won't do anything about it, support candidates who will.