Will American Indian farmers get relief? Tuesday the Trump administration proposed spending $12 billion to help farmers recover from trade retaliation caused by the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.
President Donald J. Trump has set out to protect American manufacturing by imposing tariffs, or taxes, on products from other countries that he says have unfair advantages. Other countries, including China, Canada, and the European Union, have responded with taxes of their own, making it much more difficult to sell U.S. products in other countries. (Related: What is a tariff and how does it impact Indian Country?)
Tuesday the president tweeted: “Tariffs are the greatest! Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs. It’s as simple as that - and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the “piggy bank” that’s being robbed. All will be Great!”
Then later in the day the administration announced that $12 billion would be made available for famers who are impacted by the growing trade war. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this is a one time program to buy the president enough time to secure a better trade deal.
However Republicans in Congress are not so sure. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told NBC News that the subsidy is “an acknowledgement” by the president that imposing tariffs “has a lot of unintended consequences that creates a lot of collateral damage. When you start doing this, where do you stop?” he said.
Wednesday morning the president tweeted: “Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking? Are we just going to continue and let our farmers and country get ripped off? Lost $817 Billion on Trade last year. No weakness!”
Agriculture is big business in Indian Country. The 2012 Census data which showed that the 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in agriculture products. The average size of a farm or ranch operated by Native Americans is 200 percent larger than the national farm size average. However the Intertribal Agriculture Council says the census significantly underreports Native American agriculture activity.
There is no word yet from the Trump administration about how the subsidy would work and what would be required in order for farmers to apply.
Soybeans are one crop that is already seeing the impact of the trade war. China buys some two-thirds of all U.S. soybeans and the price is already at a ten-year low because of the tariffs.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, also introduced legislation to help farmers by making Trade Adjustment Assistance available to farmers and producers whose exports are hurt by retaliation.
“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers don’t want a handout – they want access to markets to sell their goods. But as long as the administration pushes a trade war that lowers commodity prices and puts North Dakota agriculture at risk, Congress should act to give farmers and ranchers some certainty that they’ll be protected from losses caused by retaliatory tariffs against their goods,” Heitkamp said in a news release**.** “As producers watch prices for the crops in their fields decline, this legislation would give them some peace of mind that they’ll be able to access help if they need it – but the only truly long-term solution to strengthen our farm economy is to give up this misguided trade war and work to expand markets for our farmers and ranchers. Right now, I fear that farmers and ranchers will feel long-term ramifications from this trade war because of the loss of contracts and markets, many of which took years to create. We can and must modernize current trade deals to meet the changing needs of our economy, but this trade war is treating rural America like collateral damage – and that has to end.”
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReports
Are you using the new mobile platform? Get Indian Country Today on your phone with apps from The News Maven.