Feature: Tennessee farmers, business owners, trade advocates "roast" Trump's tariffs

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 27, 2018
Adjust font size:

NASHVILLE, the United States, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- "They should put a 'federal tariff tax' on receipts, so people can understand that they are ultimately paying for the price of trade wars," Glenn Anderson, who runs the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said recently.

There was only standing room at the Tennessee Brew Works, where a roast was taking place last Thursday.

Although the roast, like others, included personal experiences, observations, and sharp satire, one thing was missing in the establishment at that event: laughter.

The solemn mood was due to the subject of the roast -- tariffs, which didn't create an atmosphere of merriment, but rather one of fear, uncertainty and anger.

One speaker on the podium was 38-year-old farmer Brandon Whitt, who manages a 200-year-old farm, Batey Farms, not far from Nashville.

Whitt, an eighth-generation farmer, said the abrupt imposition of tariffs this year made him fear that he might have to give up his farm.

Batey Farms produces a variety of crops, such as soybeans, corn and wheat, and raises a large number of pigs. A large part of the farm's produce ends up in overseas markets.

But due to the trade frictions the United States has initiated with other countries, overseas demand for U.S. agricultural products has tanked, driving down the prices for soybeans and pork, among others.

"I'm making 50 bushels an acre of soybeans, but that's 50 bushels per acre at a two-dollar decrease," Whitt said. "I've done absolutely nothing wrong and lost 100 dollars an acre in profit."

"I'd like to carry our administration with me when I go to cash my grain checks and watch me deposit those checks and then immediately turn around and drive across town to my lender, whom I have to pay off except I'm missing 20, 30, 40 percent of that money to be able to pay off that operating loan," Whitt lamented.

Aside from damages, the uncertainties that come with the tariffs are also making farmers very uncomfortable.

"Nobody has a crystal ball. I don't think our officials in Washington have a crystal ball at all at this point right now. I think we're just kind of flying by the seat of our pants," Whitt said, in an apparent jab at the U.S. government.

The situation is almost like before the 2008 recession, Whitt said, adding that now people are just as discouraged to invest and hire as they were 10 years ago.

Whitt said that as a farmer, he shouldn't be diverting his energy to learn about foreign policy or trade, but the status quo has left him with no choice.

"I don't like politics, but I have to get into politics," Whitt said, adding that Washington's ever-changing positions and frequent threats have made the situation more challenging.

Whitt also rejected the idea of subsidies, calling them a "band-aid handout."

Accompanying Whitt on stage was Steven Livingston, a professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University, who said farms are not the only ones hit by the tariffs in the state.

All the leading industries in the state, such as the automotive, chemicals, paper, plastic and boat manufacturing industries will all be negatively impacted by higher trade barriers, Livingston said, estimating a 1-billion-dollar loss for the state in foreign trade.

The message resonated with those off stage.

Josh Beatty, who owns a real estate company, said he came to the event to learn more about the potential damage of tariffs.

"A lot of the lumber and steel I use in construction are imported, so I want to be prepared for any potential changes," Beatty said, who was on his first visit to Nashville from Minneapolis.

The gathering, one in a series of town hall meetings under the banner "Tariffs hurt the Heartland," was organized by the activist groups Americans for Free Trade and Farmers for Free Trade.

Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, told Xinhua that the purpose of the meetings was to raise awareness of the impacts of tariffs and trade frictions and provide a platform for people to share their opinions and stories.

"The reason we are focusing on the heartland is because the heartland is hurt by the trade war and in the 2016 elections the heartland supported President (Donald) Trump. We hope President Trump will also support the heartland," Kuehl said. Enditem

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter