Trump’s threats on trade un­set­tle farm­ing, ranch­ing back­ers

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Matthew Brown and Matt Volz

SH­EFFIELD, MONT. » Mon­tana rancher Fred Wacker had thou­sands of head of cat­tle fat­ten­ing up along the Yel­low­stone River for ex­port to China when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump picked a trade fight with the Asian na­tion.

The dis­pute threat­ens a $200 mil­lion deal that Wacker helped se­cure last year to ship Mon­tana beef to China, yet the po­ten­tial set­back to his busi­ness plans hasn’t di­min­ished his stal­wart sup­port for Trump.

“I’m not go­ing to fol­low him over the cliff, but I’ll take a pretty good jump,” Wacker said as a small team of cow­boys on his Cross Four Ranch herded hun­dreds of cat­tle onto trucks headed for sum­mer pas­ture.

Deep in Mon­tana’s ag coun­try, ranch­ers’ and farm­ers’ sup­port of Trump is be­ing put to the test as the pres­i­dent’s bel­li­cose threats of a trade war risk their liveli­hoods. It’s a con­stituency that voted heav­ily for Trump and that has a lot to lose, both in ex­ist­ing trade and new deals like the one in­volv­ing Wacker that could send tens of thou­sands of Mon­tana cat­tle to China over the next sev­eral years.

The con­flict faced by Trump’s sup­port­ers in Mon­tana, where some 28,000 farms and ranches make agri­cul­ture a top eco­nomic driver in the state, is re­flec­tive of the one fac­ing the larger U.S. agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, which also largely backed Trump but now risks be­com­ing a ca­su­alty if a trans-Pa­cific trade war erupts.

Wacker, his white cow­boy hat pulled down tight atop his head as he weighed the out­go­ing cat­tle, re­mains firmly in Trump’s camp. He views the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s ag­gres­sive stance on China as un­set­tling but nec­es­sary, and hopes it will bring par­ity to what has long been a lop­sided trad­ing re­la­tion­ship between the two na­tions.

That sit­u­a­tion was be­gin­ning to re­verse it­self when Trump reached an agree­ment with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping last year to lift a 13-year ban on U.S. beef ex­ports to China. That opened the door to the deal between Mon­tana ranch­ers and Chi­nese e-com­merce leader JD.com, Wacker said.

MATTHEW BROWN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this photo, Mike Wacker, left, and Juan Ulloa move cat­tle at Cross Four Ranch be­fore the an­i­mals are shipped to sum­mer pas­ture in Sh­effield, Mont. Cross Four has thou­sands of cat­tle ready for ex­port to China but a trade dis­pute could un­der­mine those...

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