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have all the cards, but no­body has ever cho­sen to use those cards. Hon­estly, no­body has ever known that we had the cards. They never got it. But we get it now.”

To ease the im­pact of the tar­iffs – and keep the ru­ral vote – Trump an­nounced a $12 bil­lion bailout for farm­ers ear­lier this year. Trump will visit Cape Gi­rardeau, Mo., this week where he’ll throw his sup­port be­hind Mis­souri At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley in one of the most hotly con­tested Se­nate races. Trump sees the chance to de­feat Demo­cratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri as one of the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick up a key Demo­cratic seat.


The tar­iffs are the wild card in this year’s elec­tion.

Only 28 per­cent of Mis­souri reg­is­tered vot­ers think the Trump tar­iffs and bar­ri­ers to im­ports will pro­tect Amer­i­can jobs and help the U.S. econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent NBC News/Marist poll. Forty-four per­cent says it will hurt the U.S. econ­omy and raise the cost of con­sumer goods.

Mix in other fac­tors such as the ab­sence of a farm bill and un­pre­dictable weather – Mis­souri ex­pe­ri­enced a long drought this year – and farm­ing is a high risk in­dus­try. Farm in­come has dropped more than 50 per­cent in the last five years, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Farm Bureau.

“So farm­ers are get­ting squeezed on both sides,” said Brian Kuehl, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Farm­ers for Free Trade.

John Block, agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion and who helps build sup­port for Trump’s trade poli­cies among farm­ers, said farm­ers un­der­stand the dif­fi­cult chal­lenges in­volv­ing China. They also ac­cept that com­mod­ity prices are low not just be­cause of the tar­iffs, but be­cause the na­tion’s farm­ers had such a large har­vest this year.

Block said farm­ers con­tinue to have faith in Trump – es­pe­cially now after he re­worked a trade deal with Mex­ico and Canada that in­volved many agri­cul­ture prod­ucts sold from the re­gion.

“Part of this is just the sim­ple idea that, well, Trump got one thing done. He said he would. Now, let’s get the next one done,” Block said. “There is more con­fi­dence that we’re go­ing to keep fix­ing these dis­putes and agri­cul­ture will be back in there with a lot of cus­tomers.”


Climb­ing down a 3,500 bushel grain bin that holds nearly $30,000 worth of soy­beans, Rick Oswald, 68, said the trade war re­minds him of the Soviet grain em­bargo nearly 40 years ago that pushed many of his friends out of the busi­ness. At the time, thenPresident Jimmy Carter sought to pun­ish the Soviet Union for in­vad­ing Afghanistan and an­nounced an em­bargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union.

While the U.S. cuts its own sales to the Soviet Union, coun­tries such as Ar­gentina and Brazil seized on the op­por­tu­nity and their own grain mar­kets, which they sold to the Sovi­ets to the detri­ment of Amer­i­can fam­ily farm­ers.

Oswald es­ti­mates his six full bins in Rock Port, Mo., would have been worth $216,000 in­stead of $180,000 if not for Trump’s trade war.

Why would China back down?

“The lead­ers in China may be worse than the Repub­li­cans,” said Oswald, a past pres­i­dent of the Mis­souri Farmer’s Union, “They re­ally don’t have any­one to an­swer to.”


In the base­ment of the Mar­shall Court­house, the county com­mis­sion­ers of Saline County hold a pub­lic meet­ing to dis­cuss new pro­grams, in­clud­ing one to en­cour­age young farm­ers to re­main in the com­mu­nity.

Com­mis­sioner Richard Cle­mens, a third-gen­er­a­tion farmer and chair­man of the Saline County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee, said it’s un­fair to com­pare Trump’s tar­iffs to the Soviet em­bargo, not­ing the pain was much worse be­cause it hap­pened at a time when in­ter­est rates were sky high.

En­thu­si­asm for Trump re­mains strong in the ru­ral Amer­ica, he said, and it could be just enough to push the Repub­li­can state at­tor­ney gen­eral, Haw­ley, to the U.S. Se­nate, de­feat­ing McCaskill. Cle­mens points out how Trump en­dorse­ments have helped other Repub­li­cans win tight pri­maries, in­clud­ing Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Kris Kobach in Kansas.

Kile Guthrey, a farmer and Demo­cratic com­mis­sioner, agreed. He ad­mits he too found Trump “refreshing” dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign, tak­ing on the es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans in mul­ti­ple de­bates and talk­ing like any one of his neigh­bors.

But he’s con­cerned the tar­iffs will drive out more young strug­gling farm­ers.

“It seems they al­ways use the farmer as the whip­ping boy,” Guthrey said.

Turn­ing his com­bine to drop off more soy­beans, Dow­ell said he’s never wanted to do any­thing else but farm. He plans to hold onto his soy­beans a while, hop­ing whis­pers he’s heard of a im­mi­nent deal are true.

“If they get it done in six months, I think that is a very op­ti­mistic view,” Dow­ell said. “It could take a cou­ple years. China is China. They’re pretty set in their ways too. We have a lot to of­fer the rest of the world at a very cheap price. So I think over­time it’ll be good as long as ev­ery­one gives it time. Change doesn’t come easy.”

SHELLY YANG syang@kc­

Shan­non Dow­ell, a third-gen­er­a­tion farmer from Mar­shall, Mo., says he has con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tar­iff pol­icy. “No change ever hap­pens with­out a lit­tle hurt,” Dow­ell says.

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