Weather is an act of God for farmers, but misguided federal policy is not.
For Louisiana soybean farmers, the years of the Trump administration have been a double whammy of both.
Many soybean farmers are worried about the costs of converting their fields to other crops. The trade war with China that has sharply curtailed sales to their largest export market.
From a broader standpoint, though, every part of the American economy has been adversely affected by the reversal of traditional Republican trade policy during President Donald Trump’s first term. The GOP used to be in favor of expanding trade.
Steel tariffs kicked off the trade standoff. Those are essentially taxes on products made with imported steel, raising prices for everything from dishwashers for average consumers to piping for Louisiana pipelines and chemical plants. The idea was that tariff barriers would increase employment in U.S. steel mills, but it hasn’t worked out that way.
The GOP used to be in fight against government interventions in the marketplace. But because of unease in farm country, the Trump administration resurrected a welfare program for farmers that dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Louisiana soybean farmers have tapped the program for about $180 million in offsetting federal subsidies for their losses, but it’s not enough. “It’s a Band-Aid,” farmer Charles Cannatella of St. Landry Parish said of the federal program. “We need our markets back. That’s the only way we can have certainty.”
Certainty appears not to be one of Trump’s governing principles. He’s fought with other countries constantly, using tariffs as a blunt instrument.
The GOP used to advocate limits on presidential authority. Many sharply criticized former President Barack Obama for dusting off old statutes and using them to expand federal authority. The tariffs are based on a 1963 law invoking “national security,” and it is ridiculous that a St. Landry Parish soybean field is considered a battleground.
And so far, for federal aid, FDR's old program has cost the taxpayer some $30 billion — without fixing the underlying problem.
We urge Louisiana’s senators and congressmen — all but one who are Republicans — to speak up for our state’s interests. We suggest they keep in mind the observation from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal: "As he negotiates with China, the president should be building trade alliances with the rest of the world and reducing protectionist fears. Instead, he uses tariffs as a coercive tool at any time for or any reason even against friends who have acted in good faith.”
Not good policy for the nation — and not for Louisiana.