Tim Bardole, an Iowa farmer, has survived years of low crop prices and rising costs by cutting down on fertilizers and herbicides and repairing equipment breakdowns instead of buying from them. new. When the trade war between President Donald Trump and China worsened the miserable situation, Bardole exhausted the equity of his operation and began investing in pigs in the hope that they would succeed better than the cultures.
A year later, the conflict is still raging and soybeans have reached their lowest level in 10 years. But Bardole says he's more supportive of his president today than he did when he voted for Trump in 2016, skeptical about keeping his promises.
"He really seems to be fighting for us," said Bardole, "even though it seems like both sides are hurting and we're in the middle, getting most of the shots."
Trump won the presidency by winning rural America, partly by pledging to use his business acumen and his keen sense of negotiation to confront China and put an end to business practices that affect farmers For years. Although the protracted struggle has devastated an already struggling agricultural industry, nothing indicates that Trump is paying a political price.
But there is a big potential if he can get a better deal – and a small inconvenience he continues to get credit for trying to convince the farmers caught in the middle. It's a calculation that Trump recognizes is moving into a re-election bid where he has to retain agricultural states like Iowa and Wisconsin and seeks to reverse others like Minnesota.
A CNN / Des Moines Register survey of registered Republicans in Iowa in March found that 81% of respondents agreed with Trump's behavior in his work and 82% had a favorable view of the president. an increase of 5 points since December. About two-thirds said they would certainly vote to re-elect him. The survey had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
A survey conducted in February by the same organizations revealed that 46% of Iowans had approved Trump's work – its highest approval rate since taking office – while 50% said they disapproved. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.
Many farmers are longtime Republicans who love other things that Trump has done, such as limiting the EPA and fighting illegal immigration, and believe that he is better for their interests than most Democrats, even in its worst day. They credit him for doing something that the previous presidents of both parties have talked about most. And now that they've been fighting for so long, they want to see him finish his job – and soon.
"We are the frontline soldiers killed during this trade war," said Paul Jeschke, who grows corn and soybeans in northern Illinois, where he is about to sow his 45th crop .
"I am unhappy and I think most of us are unhappy about the situation, but most of us understand the merits," he added. "And it's not as if anybody else was going to be better." Speakers who speak well we've had recently – they certainly have not done anything. "
When the trade war began last summer, China targeted its first round of tariffs on producers of agricultural and manufacturing states who played a crucial role in Trump's victory in 2016, such as the 39, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Soybean producers, the country's main agricultural export product, have been particularly hard hit.
The most recent trade talks between the Trump government and China broke off earlier this month without a deal, after Trump accused China of backtracking and granting tariffs on imports of $ 200 billion from China. China has imposed tariff increases of US $ 60 billion on US products in retaliation, and in the US soybean price has fallen to its lowest level in 10 years, fearing a protracted trade war. US authorities then announced $ 300 billion more Chinese goods for possible tariff increases.
While China had vowed to "fight until the end," Trump used Twitter to rally the farming community.
"Our big, patriotic farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what's going on right now," Trump told Twitter. "Let's hope that China will do us the honor of continuing to buy our excellent agricultural product, the best, but if not, your country will make up the difference thanks to a very high purchase in China."
He added, "Farmers have been" forgotten "for many years, it is now!"
Trump has pledged an envelope of assistance, in the order of $ 15 billion for farmers and ranchers, following $ 11 billion in relief payments last year.
It has been six years since farmers did a better job of taking stock of corn and five years since they made money with soybeans.
US net farm income, a commonly used measure of profits, has dropped 45% since a peak of $ 123.4 billion in 2013, according to the US Department of Agriculture, reflecting the US farmers struggle to regain the profitability observed earlier in the decade.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings for farms in the Upper Midwest have doubled since June 2014, when commodity prices began to fall. The hardest hit were the farms and dairy farms of Wisconsin, a state that has supported Democrats in the presidency for most of recent history before supporting Trump. It will be a fierce battlefield for 2020.
"It's terribly expensive to plant a crop," said Morie Hill, looking at the countless green shoots rising from her fields in central Iowa. He does not know why more farmers have not been forced to leave.
"Everyone I know is squeezing and doing everything he can to try to go further with less," he said.
Brent Renner, who runs a farm with his father in northern Iowa, said that although the area is strongly supported by Trump, frustration is growing. Farmer friends regularly check Twitter to see what Trump is saying and how it could displace the market.
"I do not know how many farmer friends I've had who have said," Why can not someone remove his phone? " "Renner said." It's impossible to think that he has not lost support at any level, but no one knows at what level this level fits. "
Patty Judge, former Iowa Democratic Lieutenant-Governor and Secretary of State for Agriculture, agreed that the people of Iowa had not rushed for S & # 's. Away from Trump. But she thinks voters will be ready for change in 2020 – and a president who better understands the country's role in international trade.
"It's very important for us, and getting into a trade war with no plan, no exit strategy, is dangerous and wrong and I think Iowans will understand this before the next election," she said.
The mid-term sessions of 2018 showed Democrats' difficulties outside metropolitan areas. AP VoteCast, a national survey of over 115,000 voters, found that rural and small town residents made 35 percent of the votes at mid-term; 56% of voters voted for candidates in the House of Republicans, against 41% for Democrats. Among white voters in small towns and rural areas, the advantage was greater, with a tilt of 63 to 35 for Republicans.
Jeshke said he was thanking Trump for canceling the regulations that made it harder and more expensive to approve new herbicides, as well as the changes he was proposing to make to the companies. United States waters, an environmental measure of the Obama era. Under the law, Jeshke said he needed government approval to mow certain areas of his property or make alterations to artificial lakes where children go fishing.
"And I dug them!" he said.
Jeshke says most farmers are more concerned about fixing the situation than pointing them out. But if they had to blame, China and most of the previous presidents could have solved trade imbalances more easily 15 or 20 years ago.
One thing he knows about Trump: "If he turns around now, we can never hold them responsible."
Renner explains that farmers are used to seeing events that are not under their control, such as the weather, for example, but that are making their way. It's a quality that he says clearly visible now.
"We are an optimistic people," he said. "We will keep our brains and keep moving forward."