American Farmers Are Paying A Price For Trump’s Tariffs

Aug 28, 2019

As President Donald Trump’s trade war with China continues to escalate, American agricultural exports to China are slowing down. But some farmers and their advocates say that if something isn’t done soon, the conflict could hasten the decline of the family farm.

Despite the president’s repeated claims that “farmers are starting to do great again,” the data show that’s incorrect. The United States’ agricultural exports to China totaled $24 billion in 2014. In 2018, that amount dwindled to $9.1 billion. So far in 2019, farm bankruptcies are up 13 percent this year from last year, according to the American Farm Bureau.

In an effort to help the industry through a tough time, the Trump administration authorized $12 billion in aid to farmers in 2018. They then announced an additional $16 billion in May of this year. However, the rescue funds have done little to quell farmer anger.

It’s been more than a year since the trade war began. The president initially decided to pressure Beijing as part of his strategy to help manufacturers and other companies who had supposedly lost profit due to China’s trade policies.

But during the trade war, the sales of American soybeans, pork and wheat (among other products) to China have decreased as Chinese President Xi Jinping retaliates against U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports. American farmers have relied on the Chinese market for a significant chunk of their income. Chinese buyers have increasingly turned to vendors in Brazil and Canada, among other countries.

How are farmers muddling through the trade war? Has it changed how they feel about Trump? When will the two sides come to an agreement?

Produced by Morgan Givens


Alan Rappeport, Economic policy reporter, The New York Times; @arappeport

Michelle Erickson-Jones, Fourth-generation farmer in Broadview, Montana; @bigskyfarmher

Chad Bown, Senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics; co-host of “Trade Talks” a weekly podcast about the economics of trade policy; @chadbown

John Boyd, Jr., Fourth-generation farmer; founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association;


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