President Trump announced Thursday that he would extend $16 billion in aid to farmers harmed by his trade conflict with China. The politics of that move are clear, but it sends yet another message that farmers count while the rest of us don’t. That special status isn’t going to hold if the trade war with China persists.
Farmers are already one of the most subsidized and protected groups in the United States. According to Vince Smith, a noted agricultural economist and director of the American Enterprise Institute’s agricultural studies program, soybean farmers are already eligible for government aid under three separate programs. They can purchase subsidized crop insurance to protect them against crop losses, and they participate in government programs that protect them against declines in farm revenue and in the price of soybeans. Trump’s new aid comes on top of that.
It’s not going to take long for others hurt by Chinese tariffs and retaliatory measures to ask for their fair share. Many manufacturers depend on Chinese steel imports to make their products. They don’t have government subsidized insurance to protect them when their sales drop.