When Donald Trump, apparently just itching for any kind of fight to distract attention from the stench of the swamp emanating from the White House, decided to impose tariffs on China, threatening a global trade war, reasonable people were concerned.
That concern was almost certainly enhanced when reports surfaced that Trump didn’t think through the decision or consult his economic team. He, according to NBC News, “became unglued” over media coverage of his scandal-ridden mess of an Administration and decided to lash out at anybody he could.
Trump’s irrational decision set off alarms for Montana ag producers, who rightly knew they were likely to suffer because of the President’s poorly vetted statement.
Montana Public Radio reported that grain growers were concerned about retaliation:
Michelle Erickson-Jones is the President of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She says farmers worry that U.S. trading partners will retaliate with their own levies on U.S. agricultural imports.
“So when we put a tariff on something that seems totally unrelated like steel and aluminum, we fully expect that agriculture will be the first one retaliated against,” she said. “Retaliation is really our big concern.”
As KPAX reported, the consequences are likely to extend beyond grain, as the Chinese government responded with a list of 120 American products, including pork, beef, and soybeans. Ben Thomas, the director of the Montana Department of Agriculture, says that a trade war with China could seriously hurt an already-challenged ag sector in Montana:
Thomas says the state’s agriculture industry is already facing a number of challenges.
“Right now, we’re seeing very extreme weather conditions – just look over the last year with the drought we’ve had and the winter that has had an impact on our livestock folks,” he said.
“You add to that commodity prices have been in poor shape over the last several years. We don’t need these uncertainties with trade; we need that market access, and we need that certainty.”
So with the threat of a trade war doing serious harm to Montana farmers and ranchers, how did Matt Rosendale respond? Rather than siding with Montanans, he sided with an East Coast real estate developer with a penchant for irrational decisions. From the Daily Interlake:
Another type of tax — President Trump’s recent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum – has drawn varying degrees of concern from all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation, and warnings of their potential adverse effect on state farmers. But Rosendale instead views the tariffs as a bargaining tool. Trump, he said, is “walking in from a very strong position and saying, ‘This is where we’re going to be.”
That Rosendale would see Trump’s petulant announcement of damaging tariffs is perhaps unsurprising, but nonetheless alarming. Serious analysts from both sides of the political spectrum have noted that a trade war would not only be bad for all parties involved but especially bad for American consumers. The National Review notes that the tariffs will amount to a $60 billion tax on American consumers, and the New York Times notes
Worst of all, the US is likely to lose. From Market Watch:
Yet Trump does not understand the basics of such a negotiation: he thinks that a country with a trade deficit necessarily has the stronger negotiating position. In reality, the surplus country is often in the stronger position, because it has accumulated financial claims against its “opponent.” That is certainly true of China, which holds well over $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities.
Starting a trade war with a major consumer of Montana agricultural products just as that country is considering a major expansion of its imports of Montana beef might seem like a masterstroke to a couple of East Coast developers like Rosendale and Trump, but it’s a potentially devastating decision for an industry that is so important to the economic health of our state and its communities.
Matt Rosendale is running for office to represent Montanans, not to enable the whims of Donald Trump. The choice between Rosendale and Jon Tester, the only working farmer serving in the Senate, couldn’t offer a starker contrast. While Tester fights every day for Montana farms, Matt Rosendale is actively working against them.
Montana doesn’t need another Senator for Donald Trump; we need to retain Jon Tester, a Senator who is not only from Montana, but for Montana.