Farm Bankruptcies Have Accelerated In Midst Of Trump Trade War

Farmers say Trump's trade policies are squeezing their already-thin profit margins.

a farmer in front of his equipment
Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Farmers say Trump's trade policies are squeezing their already-thin profit margins.

Farmers in the upper Midwest are feeling the pinch of Donald Trump’s trade policies and tariffs, to the point that 84 farmers in several states filed bankruptcy in the 12-month period ending in June 2018, Business Insider is reporting. That’s more than twice the number of farm bankruptcies in the 12-month period ending in June 2014, during the Obama administration.

Across Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, and parts of northwestern Wisconsin, several dozen farmers have found themselves unable to stay financially solvent in the wake of the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies. Soybean prices, for example, have fallen nearly 20 percent, due in no small part to the Chinese imposing tariffs on American agricultural products in response to Trump’s tariffs on certain Chinese goods. With an already razor-thin profit margin on soybeans, the farmers are unable to stay in the black.

The new farm crisis is hitting soybean farmers in Wisconsin particularly hard. Some 60 percent of the 84 2018 farm bankruptcies came from Wisconsin, where small soybean farmers have little in the way of markets other than China. However, American exports of soybeans to China have dropped 94 percent since the Trump administration, leaving upper Midwest soybean farmers without buyers.

Kevin McNew, chief economist at Farmers Business Network, says that the crashing soybean market is just the tip of the iceberg for the farm industry.

“[Farming margins have been] squeezed for some time, so the tariffs are certainly just more problems on top of a list of continuing problems.”

a soybean farmer harvests his crop
  Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Outside of the upper Midwest, things are only slightly better. In the lower Midwest – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, for example – being able to farm a wider variety of crops means that farmers don’t have to rely on soybeans and the Chinese market for a profit. Nevertheless, Trump’s tariffs and already-low profit margins are also hurting farmers of other crops who sell to other countries besides China. A Kansas City Federal Reserve survey found that half of farmers are reporting lower incomes than they were a year ago.

Despite this, American farmers still by-and-large support Donald Trump, according to an October CNN report. Even as trains, once filled with soybeans destined for China, sit idle, North Dakota farmers think Trump is doing the right thing for America.

Still, many say that if the election were held tomorrow, they would vote once again for Donald Trump. Democrats, they say, are too out of touch and don’t understand life in rural America.