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Farmers are making national news now
July 8, 2019

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Farmers are making the national news now...in some good ways and some bad depending on perspective. The scope and magnitude of this spring wet weather event is starting to be understood by more people. Farmers are beginning to figure out that this was more than your garden variety regional planting delay and that it encompassed the entire U.S. corn-belt and surrounding fringe areas. Words like "historical" and "unprecedented" should be used.

A farmer in Illinois made the news by throwing a 'prevent-plant party' where all the neighbors and input suppliers came together to commiserate their misery over a keg of beer. Nothing they could do about it but soak their sorrows together and make the best of it. I get that, but having a party (poor choice of words) that would have been better called a funeral, may not be appreciated by others.

There has always been empathy for national disasters but less so it seems, as it has gotten tougher for Congress and Trump to get together on disaster aid in real time. They recently passed a bill that may or may not be funded. They have to get together on a spending bill and increase the debt limit again. So far, the White House and GOP Senate leadership had not gotten on the same page to get this done even before engaging with the Democrats. Another government shutdown would not be surprising.

Not all of the general public is happy that farmers are getting tariff compensation MFP 1 and MFP 2 payments of billions of dollars. They are coming to see farmers as a bought and paid for Trump constituency where Trump is using taxpayer money to buy votes while letting others suffer. Most polls still show farm support holding for Trump but without MFP 1 and 2, I frankly doubt that would be the case.

I have spent enough time in the rural coffee shop to know that they see urban welfare recipients as Democrats who are welfare queens having more kids so that they can get more government payments. There is support for things like requiring work or drug tests to qualify for the welfare. In reverse, the urban coffee shop is now taking a similar view of farmers, seeing them as always getting bailed out beyond the crop insurance that the taxpayers already subsidize because they vote Republican.

I read a stinging criticism that suggested farmers should be made to take drug tests to get MFP payments. The urban perception of farmers and rural voters is taking a big hit from the $blns in taxpayer cash being dropped on them that is beyond disaster aid. What goes around comes around.

Our Congressman Steve King disparaged disaster aid for New Jersey Hurricane Sandy damage but is right in there today, hypocritically supporting disaster aid for his flooded constituents. I don't think that King ever dreamt that he would be in that position. Stripped of his committee assignments for his racist comments by his own party, he is a pathetic ineffective representative for his district anyway. He has three GOP challengers in his primary.

No one else is getting this money. Trump tariffs will cost the average Walmart consumer $800, none of which had an income large enough to get them a tax cut. They will not be getting MFP payments. This is going to stick in the craw of our urban cousins. The way that the trade war is going it will take MFP3, MFP4, MFP5 payments and so on to fill the hole that Trump's trade war is digging in farm income. Trump has told farmers that they will come out ahead and my B.S. detector is going off...how about yours?

What worries me is that Trump may take the good will that the urban public had toward the farm sector down with him. We have always had an urban-rural coalition that has passed the farm bills. Rural representatives support SNAP while urban representatives supported farm programs. That coalition has been fraying as conservatives have gone after food stamps. When the Dems see Trump hand-out $blns to farmers who then vote for Trump, that coalition is going to break down.

We frankly got payments that we didn't need such as direct payments. Now when we have a real natural disaster of a scope that no living farmer has ever seen before and we need help, the urban public sees Trump already paying us billions and wonders what we need more money for. They are calling these payments 'welfare' and 'socialism 101' which are insults that farmers have usually flung the other direction. They also see Republicans vote to kill health insurance for many Americans while supporting socialism for farmers. Even other small business is not as supportive as they used to be as when they go broke, no one pays them. Some of these comments being thrown at the ag sector on social media are pretty brutal.

I think Donald J. Trump (DJT) policies have done enormous damage to our reputation with US. .taxpayers. Comments in the coffee shops are as polarized along ideological lines as ever before. Here is a question - would farmers still vote for Trump if he was not giving them MFP payments? My guess is that many still would but not as many as will with them.

Turn the question around however, and ask, would Trump make these payments to farmers if he did not think it would buy their vote? My perception is that the answer to that question is a simple "no". He is very transactional.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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