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Agriculture secretary says the quiet part out loud about Trump’s trade war

"I think they are one of the casualties there of the trade disruption, yes."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue admitted that American farmers are the casualties in President Donald Trump's trade war.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue admitted that American farmers are the casualties in President Donald Trump's trade war. (Photo credit: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue admitted this week that American farmers have been hit hard by President Donald Trump’s trade policies. But, he said, he would make no promises about continued aid to those paying the price.

Perdue traveled to Iowa this week to tell the state’s farmers that the administration appreciates their sacrifices, even as Trump continues to unilaterally increase tariffs in hopes of convincing other countries to give him trade deals.

According to the USDA’s 2017 statistics, Iowa is home to 86,104 farms.

“President Trump has a lot of respect for farmers and ranchers across this country,” Perdue said, in an interview with CNN, which aired Tuesday. “He appreciates your patience. He understands that it is tough out there.”

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The former Georgia governor was then asked directly if American farmers were “the casualty” in Trump’s trade war with China.

I think they are one of the casualties there of the trade disruption, yes,” Perdue responded.

Perdue noted that Trump had made some $16 billion in bailout money — part of a flawed policy to help aid growers affected by the trade war — available to farmers this year to help make up for the damages Trump had caused, proof he suggested that farmers can “count on him.”

Asked whether this aid would continue, however, Perdue was emphatic that the bailout was for this year only. “Again, this is a 2019 program, I’m not going to promise anything for 2020,” he said.

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Iowa has been hit hard by Trump’s policies. The state’s senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, said last month that he would write a letter to the president to explain in detail how much the administration’s imposed tariffs harm his constituents. He noted that he was putting the concerns in writing because he does not believe Trump is capable of understanding the issue when explained out loud. “I’m not sure if you talk to him face-to-face he hears everything you say,” Grassley said at the time.

According to the conservative Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa farm bankruptcies have soared to an 18-year high under Trump.

Trump will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week to restart negotiations on a trade deal, though Perdue said he does not expect a deal to be achieved before the end of this year.

The United States and China have been in a trade war for the past year. Trump imposed a 25% tariff on the import of Chinese goods last summer — making products like steel and aluminum more expensive for American consumers — and China retaliated with similar policies to reduce sales of American goods exported there.

In May, Trump also raised tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, hiking them from 10% to 25%. China, as it did previously, immediately responded by announcing its own tariffs on $60 billion worth of American exports.