Farmers Sticking By Trump Even As Trade Wars Bite : The Salt Trump's trade wars and ethanol policy hurt farmers, but polls show his support among them remains strong, and may be growing as the impeachment query moves forward.
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Farmers Sticking By Trump Even As Trade Wars Bite

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Farmers Sticking By Trump Even As Trade Wars Bite

Farmers Sticking By Trump Even As Trade Wars Bite

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

American farmers are hurting from President Trump's trade war with China. Crop prices are in the cellar. More farmers are going bankrupt. But as Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports, many farmers continue to support Trump.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Farmers like Luke Ulrich work hard.

LUKE ULRICH: I mean, I'm always putting in 12 hours, never any less than that. It's a pretty big deal if I take a Sunday off or something.

MORRIS: This afternoon, Ulrich is working on a combine, one he's counting on to harvest the corn waiting ripe in his fields near Baldwin City, Kan. Ulrich's expenses are high and the prices he's getting for his crops and cattle so low, he's paying himself less than $25,000 for the whole year of work.

ULRICH: You know, more or less, live off my wife's income. She carries the benefits. It's - if it wasn't for her, we'd probably sunk.

MORRIS: President Trump is partly to blame for low grain prices. China retaliated against his tariffs by all but closing a giant export market for soybeans.

ULRICH: I'd probably be lying if I said some of us aren't scratching our heads every once in a while. I sometimes wonder if he didn't bite off a little more than he could chew.

MORRIS: Then the Trump administration hurt demand for corn by allowing dozens of oil refineries to sidestep their legal obligations to use billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol in gasoline blends. But guess what.

ULRICH: I'm not mad at President Trump. I think the man has a plan.

SARA WYANT: That is not going to hold forever.

MORRIS: Sara Wyant, president of Agri-Pulse Communications, has been polling farmers on Trump for years. And she says they've stood by him.

WYANT: That is going to be a position that when some of them start to face - well, either it's Trump or going out o - business, they're not going to be still voting for Trump.

MORRIS: But many farmers are keeping their hopes up. That's what tell told Jim Mintert at Purdue University. Mintert says solidly two-thirds of the 400 farmers he polls each month look for a happy ending to the trade wars.

JIM MINTERT: I wouldn't say that we've seen any evidence of people becoming less supportive of the administration's trade policy. That's not to say farmers aren't concerned. They are very definitely concerned.

MORRIS: Trump has tried to ease those concerns. He's promised progress on trade and pledged to force oil companies to use billions of gallons more ethanol. And his administration has doled out $28 billion over the last couple of years to help farmers make up for what they're losing in export sales - 28 billion over and above other farm subsidies and disaster assistance.

John Herath at Farm Journal polls more than a thousand farmers monthly. He says Trump's popularity slumped a bit during the summer but bounced back to 76% favorable the week the House launched its impeachment inquiry.

JOHN HERATH: You see everyone circling their wagons now, and the farm community is no different in that.

MORRIS: Despite the farm losses Chris Larimer, who teaches political science at Northern Iowa University, says farmers are having to square their economic interests with their political allegiance.

CHRIS LARIMER: These partisan identities are hardening, so you kind of have forces pushing in both ways. And it's sort of this ongoing experiment to see which one breaks first.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's raining.

MORRIS: Back on Luke Ulrich's farm, it's started to rain hard - bad news for his corn harvest. Ulrich's got a lot on his mind. Ask him about impeachment and he points at the dirt.

ULRICH: I got crops to get out of field, bills to pay and contracts to fill. And yeah, impeachment's pretty much way down there because it's not paying my bills. So (laughter)...

MORRIS: So while there's a lot of grumbling about Trump among farmers these days, neither the trade wars nor the impeachment investigations seem to be driving them away from him yet.

For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Baldwin City, Kan.

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