In a recent Quinnipiac University poll asking respondents how they felt about President Donald Trump’s record on trade, fully 53 percent said they disapproved of how he was handling the subject, while just 39 percent approved of his efforts.
In spite of those overall numbers, many farmers across the country appear to still support Trump as president, even as another bailout is being proposed to help them deal with the harmful effects of a trade war with China. But in some parts of the nation, fissures are appearing.
Farmers in the Midwest have recently begun speaking out against the president’s trade wars. “This isn’t short-term pain. This is going more long-term,” Robert Karls, head of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, said, per a report from PBS NewsHour.
That seems to be a minority view among rural farmers, however. Yet one retired Kentucky farmer believes he can explain the phenomenon over why Trump’s support in the agricultural industry hasn’t waned more: farmers are scared of retaliation from Republicans for speaking out against him.
“Caught in the Republican party’s political crosshairs, farmers are stuck in an environment that has cultivated fear for anyone who dares to speak against the mighty GOP,” Jim Pat Wilson wrote in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier Journal this week.
Wilson explained in his column that he had to speak out because he, unlike other farmers, had “a lot less to lose” by doing so. He noted that the proposed bailout by the president isn’t a solution, but rather a bandage to conceal the broader problem of the effects of Trump’s trade wars.
Kentucky farmers are afraid to criticize Trump because they fear Republican retaliation: Retired farmer https://t.co/lYjJ4XTmaD
— Navy Mom (@USNavyMomPA) May 28, 2019
“This $16 billion bailout that the president has promised comes from the chaos of his own making. Farmers don’t want handouts, they want solutions,” Wilson said.
Noting that, much like the wall on the southern border won’t be paid for by Mexico, the tariffs Trump has imposed won’t be paid for by China either. “The funds will ultimately come from the taxpayers because it is federal money that is used for the bailouts,” Wilson emphasized.
Farmers that speak out could face potential retaliation from Trump himself. But it’s local politicians that could also cause harm, the former Western Kentucky farmer added.
Wilson wrote that a farmer who wrote a separate opinion piece recently lost 300 acres of land because “word got out that he was a Democrat.” He also suggested that banks and lenders that are meant to help farmers call people within the community to get the “general character” of would-be borrowers — in other words, to find out where they sit politically.
The overall problem only has one solution, Wilson added.
“Republicans have divided neighbors, and our farmers who dare to go against the grain are siloed for speaking up; that’s why so many remain silent,” the retired farmer said. “Come Election Day, I hope our farmers find the confines of the ballot box a place for their own retaliation.”