Believe Me: Trump’s Policies Could Launch Another Trade War 

Canadian farmers could be among the first to see if U.S. president-elect Donald Trump can live in two worlds – the one in which he keeps his supporters happy, and the other one that keeps the rest of the planet from succumbing to chaos.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday, Trump assured the world that he will “deal fairly with everyone.”

That’s pretty hard to believe, given some of his past remarks about certain ethnic groups and his interest in building a wall around the United States.

But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, at least for now, that he’ll try to be a good world citizen.

To me, what was troubling though was the caveat to that assurance, that he’d “always put America’s interests first.”

Not that we should expect anything less. But what does America-first mean?

I think it means more support for American farmers. Look at any map showing where Trump had his strongest support, and one of the most direct connections is to states with big farming economies, particularly in the midwest U.S.

Those economies were staggering before the election. And farmers there (and here) have been warned by economists that it’s likely to remain unchanged by natural market forces for as many as five years.

To fulfill his promise of making America great again, Trump could very well try kick starting the engine of the farm economy. One way is to offer subsidies to farmers to export their grain. It’s been done by past U.S. administrations, and it set off a decades-long global trade war between the US and Europe as they vied for whatever markets they could capture by dumping their cheap grain there.

It also set a global price for grain – a very low one, that forced other countries including Canada to bail-out farmers caught in this battle of the superpowers.

A special trade subsidy could be a quick fix for Trump. It would appease many farmers, and maybe help some rural communities there heal. It would be consistent with his threat to tear up existing trade deals. And indeed, as he vowed, it would put America’s interests first, even though it would potentially devastate farm economies elsewhere.

Trump is said to surround himself with bright people. Pre-election analysis of his 65-member agriculture advisory team, chaired by a Nebraska cattle rancher, pointed to that, for the most part. In an interview with the news site Politico, Dale Moore, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau, said the Trump ag team represented “a lot of horsepower…that can provide good, solid advice and counsel.”


Cowboy poet Red Steagall of Texas, playing his Texan-built Mossman guitar, is one of Donald Trump’s ag advisors. Credit: YouTube

Politico also pointed out though that the team contained a number of what it called “distinctly Trumpian characters, from Red Steagall, Texas’ official cowboy poet, to Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner who made national headlines for trying to bring deep fryers and sugary drinks back to schools.”

The sugar for the drinks, of course, is produced in America, as is whatever goes into the deep fryer.

But even the sugary drink issue underlines how divisive America is. While Texan Miller is campaigning to free those drinks, three California cities — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany – supported ballot measures Tuesday to levy a penny-per-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks. Further north, Boulder, Colorado, supported a two-cent-per-ounce excise tax on soft drink distributors.

Education is the real answer to this problem, not solely legislation, unless people are also going to be legislated to exercise. But it’s an example of a quick fix to placate loud voices.

Will Trump’s policies be evidence- and education based? Will he dismiss global warming and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become a regulatory enemy of U.S. farmers? And if he does, will he stifle trade with nations who support efforts to stem global warming? Will he play well with the global farm economy, the one that’s working to figure out ways to feed a growing population?

These are hardly matters that should be given to political posturing. But given Trump’s campaign rhetoric, skepticism is reasonable, and warranted.