U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran responded to escalation of the trade conflict with China by pressing the U.S. agriculture secretary Monday to quickly resolve the discord or risk deeper economic damage to the nation's farmers and ranchers on the cusp of financial collapse.
The Kansas Republican told Sonny Perdue, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, another round of billion-dollar payments to producers or emergency commodity purchases for distribution in international aid programs would deliver short-term relief but not make up for vaporization of export markets or stop the financial spiral fueled by disruption of trade.
"Kansas farmers and ranchers understand the need to hold China accountable for bad behavior on trade," Moran said in a letter to Perdue. "Yet, net farm income has fallen by 50 percent since 2013 and the trade war has pushed commodity prices down even further. Many farmers and ranchers are on the verge of financial collapse."
Moran, a member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, signaled impatience felt among some GOP lawmakers with President Donald Trump's festering conflict with China. Recently, the president more than doubled tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent and threatened to levy higher tariffs on an additional $325 billion worth of products.
Trump, who leaned on rural Republican voters to win the 2016 presidential race, has sought to preserve political allegiance of his base despite ongoing trade problems. In Iowa, a CNN/Des Moines Register poll in March found 81 percent of registered GOP members approved of the president and two-thirds anticipated voting for Trump in the 2020 election.
Moran said tariffs initiated by Trump against China and China’s retaliatory tariffs targeting U.S. farmers and ranchers threatened the future of U.S. agriculture.
He said the urge to increase reliance among Kansas and U.S. farmers on income from government payouts instead of markets was unsustainable.
The president's recommendation that U.S. consumers stop buying goods from China to avoid paying tariffs won't provide relief to Kansas and other states dependent on selling farm products to China and other foreign markets, Moran said. Applying Trump's suggestion to foreign buyers who quit buying American commodities to avoid tariffs hurts U.S. farmers, the senator said.
The Kansas senator said he agreed with Trump that expansion of international food aid ought to be a priority with an estimated 800 million people in the world battling food insecurity. Of that total, he said, 113 million were in imminent danger of starvation.
"This trade assistance package offers us an opportunity to do good and save lives around the world, while also helping American producers at home by purchasing and shipping U.S.-grown commodities," Moran said.