Donald Trump’s hostage-taking of the federal government could further damage an economic sector already struggling from another of his combative policies: farmers.
According to the Associated Press, despite the recent passage of an $867 billion farm bill for 2019, Trump’s partial government shutdown over his demand for a border wall could stop direct payments, farm loans, and disaster assistance programs if the shutdown continues beyond next week.
Taxpayers were forced to bail out the nation’s farmers affected by a trade war with China to the tune of $9.5 billion in direct payments. In retaliation for the Trump administration placing tariffs on steel and aluminum, China placed its own tariffs on U.S. agricultural commodities, including soybeans. Agricultural commodity prices tanked, and U.S. farmers now risk losing an important Chinese market to other suppliers. Since September, about $1.8 billion has been paid to farmers, according to the AP.
Farmers hoping to receive a second round of direct payments have until Jan. 15 to register, but that likely will be put on hold until the federal government resumes normal operations. And with the Trump administration appearing to use the government shutdown as political leverage over an incoming House controlled by Democrats, no one knows exactly when that will happen.
“What Trump is doing may help in the long term,” Pennsylvania farmer Rick Mains told the AP in a separate report. “But right now it hit at a time when economically it’s hurting everybody - beef, poultry, crops are taking hit. It’s the worst time to have tariffs.”
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Add to that scenario a shutdown with no end in sight, and Trump—and Republicans in general—may risk angering a traditional base of support even further.
For his part, Trump doesn’t appear to be too concerned. On Saturday, he tweeted about border security and the Mueller probe, but made no mention of farmers. “I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security. From what I hear, they are spending so much time on Presidential Harassment that they have little time left for things like stopping crime and our military!” he tweeted.
Ten minutes later, he alluded to a “deal” with China, but didn’t include any details.