As President Donald Trump cast himself as a friend of the farmer at an Iowa campaign rally Thursday, newly released data revealed the number of farms declaring bankruptcies surged by 20% in 2019 — the highest in eight years.
The American Farm Bureau attributed the figures, based on court bankruptcy data, to record farm debt and “headwinds on the trade front” triggered by Trump’s trade war.
Nearly 46% of the farm Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings last year were in the 13-state Midwest region, followed by 22% in the Southeast, according to the data. Among the hardest-hit states were Wisconsin and Georgia, as well as Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota.
Bankruptcies soared despite massive federal subsidies to mitigate the losses of the trade war. The $28 billion earmarked for farm aid based on the trade war is more than twice the total spent by the federal government to bail out the auto industry in 2009 — a program often blasted by Trump. The money is referred to as “Trump money” in some regions that were instrumental in putting Trump over the top in the 2016 presidential election. Nearly one-third of national farm income is now provided by taxpayer-funded direct aid and subsidies, which are at the highest level in 14 years, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“They’ve already given out $19 billion to farmers, but they’re cutting $5 billion from people in need,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, told NPR in December. “I don’t even know how to describe it except to say that it is cruel, it is unfair and it is clearly designed to support the president’s base.”
The only larger increase in farms bankruptcies in the last decade occurred in 2010, on the heels of the Great Recession, when they spiked 33%.
Trump claimed at the Iowa rally that the most China ever spent on U.S. agricultural products before his administration was $16 billion in a year. In fact, China spent $25.9 billion in 2012, according to figures from the USDA, $19.5 billion the year before Trump took office, $25.9 billion in 2017 — and just $9.1 billion in 2018, after Trump launched his trade war.
The recent “Phase One” trade deal with China stipulates that China will purchase up to $40 billion in agricultural products, including soybeans and pork, over two years. But that could be in jeopardy as China struggles with the outbreak of a new coronavirus.
The hamburger-loving president also claimed that those who support the Green New Deal, proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions, are out to “kill our cows; that means you’re next.” There is no mention of cows in the climate proposal — nor any threats to people.