The Trump administration ministered to its trade war’s agricultural casualties last summer with a $12 billion farm bailout, a package promptly condemned by the American Farm Bureau Federation as an inevitably inadequate substitute for restoration of normal trade relations. The bailout’s overwhelming insufficiency is even more obvious now: One Wisconsin farm family in the Times article received a whopping $400 from the program, nowhere near enough to allow them to keep milking cows. The family is now in the process of leaving the dairy industry to raise beef cattle in hopes of saving their farm.
Yet when he spoke in Wisconsin on Saturday, Trump was either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge the effects his anti-market policies have had on the farmers he professes to champion. “I came up here a year ago, and I was with farmers,” Trump said, spinning a tale in which he figured as the patron saint of Wisconsin agriculture for his negotiation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a relatively modest NAFTA reform deal which Congress has yet to approve.
Yes, USMCA will make it somewhat easier for American dairy farmers to sell their products in Canada. But it’s not clear how much that will really change for the U.S. dairy industry, and it certainly won’t help farmers who have already been pushed out of the dairy industry by economic conditions created significantly by Trump’s own trade war.