Has the Trump administration made life harder for farmers? Although he originally touted himself as a man after the Midwest’s own heart, Trump has left farmers in the dust ever since he stepped into office. Now, according to a Wall Street Journal review of federal data, U.S. farmers are filing for chapter 12 bankruptcy protections at rates not seen for at least a decade.
Bankruptcy numbers in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals are now twice as high as they were in 2008. The Eighth Circuit has seen swellings of 96%, while the Tenth is facing 59% more filings than a decade prior. These courts cover states—Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas and more—that account for nearly half of all farm production sales in the U.S. among them.
Since soybean, corn, and other commodity prices have waned in recent years due to burgeoning competition from agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and Russia, farmers have longed for a sympathetic force in Washington to ease the trading process. “Trade, not aid” has long been a motto for elected officials in America’s heartland. But Trump has managed to embroil himself in trade wars with China and Mexico, both major buyers of U.S. agricultural goods, and it has hit farmers right in the wallet.
Soybean, corn, and hog prices have plummeted in retaliation for tariffs levied against these countries. “Agriculture prices live and die by exports,” University of Wisconsin professor of agribusiness Kevin Bernhardt told the Milwaukee Independent, “in all commodities, we’re heavily dependent on China, especially for soybeans.” Yet Trump has said that he will not meet with Chinese President Xi Jingping until March 1 at the earliest, signaling that these hard-hitting tariffs are far from over.
Trump’s record-shattering government shutdown also stiffed farmers, as it saw the crippling of the Farm Service Agency, and therefore farmers’ access to loans and federal aid. At last month’s annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Trump ensured farmers that their “greatest harvest” was yet to come. “No one understands better than our great farmers that the tough choices we make today reap rewards for centuries to come,” he told them, in defense of his holding out for border wall funds.
The Trump administration has been hard on the agricultural industry. Trump must have the famous “trade, not aid” motto backwards: bailouts have been massive, while trade has never been more difficult for financially-drained farmers. Even if Trump does manage to settle his disastrous trade disputes, farmers fear the effects of his petulance will be felt for years to come.