Trump tariffs will hurt farmers

“The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.” — Steve Wright

Who said catching up was easy? Perhaps it is true only when snow skiing downhill on a steep mountainside. In all other circumstances, it is very hard work, if it is even possible.

On the final leg of a 600-meter race, Heather Dorni­den tripped when her foot hit the shoe of her nearest competitor, recovering in stellar fashion to win the race by only 0.04 of a second.

We all love to see such a spectacle, but recovery and achieving victory against overwhelming odds is not as easy as one might think.

In a September 2015 issue of the Hillsboro Free Press, the upcoming presidential campaign was the focus of my column. Today, hindsight provides the luxury of clearer perspective: My previous column is in quotes.

“In my opinion, there’s not one publicly declared candidate on either side that is fully qualified to hold the highest office of the land. Only two, possibly three, have any demonstrated abilities that gives them the credentials to run. And I decline to mention who they are.”

My opinion remains, post-election, with one exception—of all Republican candidates who threw their hat in the ring, only one demonstrates some of the desired qualities in a national leader, current governor of Ohio, John Kasich.

Kasich is on record opposing new tariffs imposed by President Trump, which will do more harm to our economy than it will benefit. Though hit hard by job losses in steel and aluminum industries, he recognizes agriculture’s vital contributions to that economy as well. Kasich demonstrates sufficient knowledge of global politics and America’s economic priorities.

Mr. Trump’s executive order canceling our participation in the TPP agreement is the first strategic error of his young administration. Currently, as farm groups recover from shock and realize he was fulfilling his campaign promise without considering expert advice, they are trying to play catch-up.

As the TPP-11 trade agreement takes effect, American agriculture will be at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace, with potential revenue losses exceeding $3 billion annually.

Currently, a fast approach­ing trade war further deepens the competitive disadvantage for American agriculture as China responds with its own steep tariffs on American products and commodities.

In retrospect, Trump indicates a willingness to rejoin TPP as a means to counter China’s growing dominance since we walked away from that responsibility. However, it is uncertain he will pursue that option, based on past history of ignoring expert advice, even when compelling evidence points to a necessary change in direction.

Like the athlete in the 600-meter race, we are falling further behind, and now must attempt to catch up. Unfortunately, we may have less than “200 meters” to catch up.

“Sadly, I fear for the future of our country. Neither side is willing to sit down with the other and work through issues in a rational manner while respectful of differing perspectives.”

My fear remains. In the latest markup of the recently approved Farm Bill out of the House Ag Com­mit­tee, the latest report comes from a very loyal, moderately conservative farm state Democrat from Minnesota, Rep. Collin Peterson.

Republican Committee members hid discussion of the nutritional portion of the bill behind closed doors. Ranking Democrats on the agricultural committee were disinvited; a first for this committee.

Transparency and bipartisanship is necessary for responsible democratic governance. Without it, we will continue to see a declining level of satisfaction and increasing frustration as partisan politics continues.

“What goes around, comes around,” the old saying goes. It is only a matter of time when the political party in majority will become the minority. Even if we discount changing demographics—which already predicts a change in political ideology as the aging Baby Boomer generation retires and millennials become mainstream—in time, the electorate will bring about such change.

My fear is, if we who are in the current majority do not step up and work to unify through bipartisan efforts today, we will likely see a political backlash when our fortunes change, which will further widen the gulf between the extremes.

“Personally, I don’t want to hear another negative speech about yet another attempt to repeal Obama­care.

“I do want to hear how a candidate will address the need for affordable health care, not only for the rich and powerful, but also for the working-class family as well as the working poor. And please, propose more reform than merely limiting malpractice settlements or rejecting the expansion of Medicaid funding.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the maverick of the Hill, was the key to ending further efforts to repealing the Affordable Care Act, at least for the time being. Despite dire predictions and efforts to sabotage its financial viability, it remains the law of the land. The lives of nearly 50 million people— middle class, the poor and under-served American citizens—depend on it.

To date, not one serious bipartisan effort is forthcoming to stem out-of-control costs of health care, not to mention limiting malpractice lawsuits—the alleged poster child for “serious health care reform.”

There you have it. We are in a race of epic proportions. We are stumbling on the backstretch and have little time to catch our breath as we get back up. We have “bet the farm” and are about to lose. Will we recover soon enough to win?

Sometimes, fear is a good motivator. It can save lives when it causes us to focus on what really matters. It can also save a democracy, if we read the warning signs as well, and take the necessary steps to preserve it.

Paul Penner farms in the Hillsboro area. He has been active statewide and nationally in agriculture policy.