President Donald Trump’s trade wars are pushing America’s rural economy toward a full-blown meltdown after years of financial hardship, causing more farmers to default on loans while putting the squeeze on agricultural lenders.
Farmers have seen their net income plummet by half since 2013 and are now expected to hold nearly $427 billion in debt this year — the most since the farm crisis in the 1980s. The default rate for farm loans held by banks hit its highest level in seven years in the first three months of 2019.
In Iowa earlier this month, Trump blamed his predecessors who “did nothing” about falling farm income, while crediting his own administration for “turning it all around.”
Except he hasn’t. Instead, his trade battles have accelerated the deterioration of financial conditions. Retaliatory tariffs from major trading partners like China and Mexico have slammed U.S. farm exports and taken a chunk out of commodity prices. And soaring debt levels are pushing more and more farmers and ranchers — already suffering from epic floods — toward insolvency.