Nation & World

These American farmers are sticking with Trump in the midterms

Soybeans are harvested in Tiskilwa, Ill., on Sept. 18, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.
Soybeans are harvested in Tiskilwa, Ill., on Sept. 18, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.

Don Latham, a 10th generation farmer in Iowa, is harvesting corn and soybeans in a tough market amid President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. But he’s still voting Republican when he heads to the polls Tuesday.

“Trump is what he is,” he said last week from his combine as he gathers part of this year’s bumper crop. The president is “pompous, arrogant,” but he’s done what he said he’d do when he campaigned and is getting results on trade.

Latham is one of many growers supporting Trump even as the trade war with Beijing spurred retaliatory tariffs that have sent soybean prices to the lowest in more than a decade. About 79 percent approve or strongly approve of the president, according to a survey of 600 commercial farmers and ranchers commissioned by Agri-Pulse, an industry publication, and carried out Oct. 12-28.

“There’s this belief that by taking on China, by reworking trade deals, that this president has their interest in the long-term at heart,” said Arun Pillai-Essex, a senior North America analyst for global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “There’s a belief and trust that those sort of arrangements, even though they are causing short-term pain, they will lead to long-term structural benefits.”

Farmers want the administration to focus more on exports and ending the dispute with China, according to the Agri-Pulse survey, conducted by Aimpoint Research. Just over 69 percent said they’re willing to re-elect Trump and almost 65 percent believe Republicans relate best to them and their farm, according to the survey, which pooled those with gross farm income of at least $50,000.

Trump said Friday he thought the U.S. and China would reach a deal to end the ongoing dispute and that it would be good for both sides. While Pillai-Essex says that’s unlikely to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s election, his supporters will point out that this shows Trump has their best interest at heart.

“The announcement came so late with respect to Tuesday’s election that I just think that a lot of voters notions of have been baked in already,” he said.

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At a campaign event for Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican, on a farm in Champaign in late October, Ted Shambaugh, said he supports the moves that Trump has made on trade and believes farmers will ultimately benefit after bearing some short-term pain.

“I’m glad to see somebody finally stand up to China,” said Shambaugh, a seventh-generation farmer who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 2,500 acres near Decatur, Illinois.

Almost 65 percent of the respondents in the Agri-Pulse survey lean Republican, 12 percent to the Democrats. The rest were either independent, had no party or refused to answer the question.

“I’m amazed,” Al Kluis, managing director of Kluis Commodity Advisors, said of farmer support for Republicans and the president at the Futures Industry Association Expo in Chicago last month. “There are still no cracks that I can see.”

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