Our View: Farm economy: Trump actions continue to decimate farm country

Source: By Editorial Board, Mankato Free Press • Posted: Monday, September 2, 2019

The pillars of the agriculture economy are crumbling while President Donald Trump offers only feel-good words and empty promises.

Trump promised long ago the trade war with China would be long over and said trade wars are “easy to win.” So far, it’s a couple years and billions of dollars in lost farm income “easy.”

Trump promised he would support allowing use of E-15 ethanol in the winter as an aid to farmers, but on another issue his EPA quietly granted waivers to 31 oil companies recently who no longer must use cleaner-burning ethanol. Another 54 waivers were granted earlier this year, with the National Corn Growers pegging the lost business to farmers in over 2.6 billion gallons of ethanol. All told, the waivers are cutting 4 billion gallons of ethanol demand from the 15 billion required by law, a near 30 percent drop.

Rep. Jim Hagedorn initially backed Trump ag policies at every turn, urging farmers to be patient and at one televised event patting a farmer on the back who got emotional about losing his farm. More recently the first-term congressman has tried to finesse horrific Trump policies. He recently described the impact of tariffs on prices as ”transitioning through trade issues.”

He continues steadfast belief in the Trump strategy of raising tariffs on Chinese goods, which prompted the Chinese to retaliate with tariffs on soybeans. That has reduced exports by 40 percent. Economists on both sides of the political spectrum expect the U.S. will permanently lose some if not all of the Chinese business.

Farm income in 2019 is expected to come in at half of what it was in 2019, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

Now, round two of Trump’s agriculture policies is hitting the heartland. With corn prices already depressed, Trump is cutting demand for ethanol with the EPA waivers. It was just too much to bear for the farmer-owned ethanol co-op in Winnebago.

It will close the plant and lay off 40 workers. Some 15 ethanol plants have closed nationwide.

Hagedorn and his supporters claim Trump is backing farmers by supporting the Renewable Fuels Standard Integrity Act, which some say would reverse the ethanol waiver problem, by still requiring the gallons lost to be part of the renewable fuel standard.

But the bill, authored by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-7th District, was introduced in May and has not been advanced. Commodity prices are going down now. Farmers can’t wait for the delays of Congress on a technical bill.

The bill falls far short of what’s really needed: a complete repudiation of Trump’s ag policies. They have decimated farm country and the hard-working people who put food on the world’s table.

Hagedorn’s office told The Free Press Thursday that the congressman signed a bipartisan letter urging the EPA to “be more stringent in the issuance of small refinery waivers,” and “strongly advocated for greater scrutiny in the granting of small refinery waivers” in the House agriculture committee and in private discussions with USDA officials.

His office also said Hagedorn had personal meetings with Trump and ag officials to advocate for use of ag-based renewables.

This advocacy by Hagedorn has not yielded many results yet. It would be a down payment on Hagedorn’s commitment to farmers if Trump and the EPA reversed the waivers immediately.

It’s time for Hagedorn to push back with more force and influence on Trump’s damaging ag policies.