President Trump's tariffs and the trade war they launched have not been kind to American farmers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has conceded.
"Farmers love their lifestyle, but they're businesspeople," he said at an event hosted by Axios. "They have to make a profit. They're some of the best patriots in America, but they can't pay the bills with patriotism." Perdue said he hopes to have a relief plan in place by the end of the summer.
The secretary made similar comments in a late June interview with the Chicago Tribune. "There's legitimate anxiety if it's your livelihood," he admitted, but argued farmers are "patriots" who understand trade war is necessary retaliation against "a country that has been unfair at trade practices for a number of years." Still, Perdue added, "it's kind of like a drought: 'When will it end?'"
China has levied a 25 percent tax on 545 U.S. imports, including agricultural products like soybeans, rice, beef, pork, and more. Soybean farmers expect a particularly hard hit, as China previously bought fully one-third of their product. Maine lobster harvesters are already suffering, as Chinese buyers turn to Canada — subject to a 7 percent lobster tariff — to avoid 35 to 40 percent tariffs on American lobsters.
Farmers may be willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, said the National Farm Union's Matt Purdue, but "there's a lot of anxiety and I think that anxiety is growing over time."