“Whenever there’s tariff retaliation agriculture is the first thing hit,” he continued. “We just hope the president knows what he’s doing, and we hope he’s negotiating in good faith to get a better deal for us. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be catastrophic for agriculture.”
Mr. Grassley said he didn’t want to make any predictions about the midterm or presidential elections, but said, “If this turns out to be catastrophic, there’s obviously going to be real disappointment” among voters in farm states.
Mr. Trump clearly recognizes the high stakes. In a recent White House meeting with lawmakers and governors from a number of farm states, he pledged that the federal government would support agricultural prices should retaliatory tariffs cause the price of soybeans, corn and other major exports to fall.
“He wasn’t specific, but he assured us Sonny Perdue has a plan,” Mr. Grassley said, referring to the secretary of agriculture. “Our response was unanimous. I’m paraphrasing, but the message was, we don’t want help from the Treasury. We want free and open markets.”
Mr. Kimberley had a similar reaction. And he asked a question that still resonates in Iowa: “Who’s going to pay for this? Soybean exports alone account for $14 billion a year. You’re talking billions of dollars.”
Everyone I spoke to in Iowa agreed that China engages in a range of unfair trade practices that need to be addressed. But no one said a tariff war is the way to do it. “China is projected to be one of the fastest growing export markets over the next decade, and we want to be part of that growth,” Mr. Kimberley said.