TN Farm Bureau President: “We’ve Endured About All The Pain We Can Stand”

The Tennessee Farm Bureau lobbies on behalf of the state’s farmers.  TN’s is the largest Farm Bureau in the nation, with more than 677,000 members. Bureau President Jeff Aiken was re-elected this week, and Aiken had some frank words about Trump’s Trade War and the “pain” it’s causing our farmers at their convention at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cool Springs Tuesday.

Below are some excerpts from Aiken’s speech, courtesy of the Columbia Daily Herald:

“Trade is vitally important to Tennessee farmers. Many of the commodities we produce are heavily dependent on the export market… Most have endured about all of the pain we can stand. The trade war with China has caused soybean exports to decline by 52%, forest products by 43% and cotton by 36%. The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the American Farm Bureau Federation remain vigilant in sharing that message.”

To put a few more tragic numbers on it – Trump’s ex-senior Econ advisor Gary Cohn recently pointed out USA AG Exports have dropped from $30 Billion to $9 Billion in the wake of Trump’s Trade War, and Tennessee has been the hardest hit state by far.

And no, China is not paying for the tariffs.

Aiken then went on to talk about the need for MORE immigration/immigration reform, to provide farmers with an informed, motivated labor force:

“Farmers across Tennessee have trouble finding workers who understand agriculture and show persistence on the job. The country needs a comprehensive guest worker to allow migrants to enter legally, but reform has been slow with the fight over illegal immigration in Washington

For those who face the challenge of an available workforce, your patience is probably wearing thin as well. We have not had any meaningful reforms to our guest worker programs for 25 year. There is legislation in the House of Representatives now, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which addresses farm labor. AFBF believe the bill has severe shortcomings and must be substantially modified before we can support it. However, at this time, AFBF has not taken a position of opposition because it is most likely the only chance for needed reforms.”

That’s a starkly different message from the one emanating out of the Oval Office, where Trump has been clamping down on immigration and taking drastic measures at the border, including separating families to send a message of deterrence. (likely the work of Stephen Miller, who was recently revealed to have White Supremacist beliefs, causing 27 senators to send a letter calling for his removal.

Aiken then closed with an inspirational story about Jim Thorpe having his shoes stolen and running in the Olympics with someone else’s shoes.

“These are stressful times in agriculture. I love the Farm Bureau because it allows the voice of farmers to be heard… I want to close with a story about Jim Thorpe. He was from Oklahoma and was representing the U.S. in track in the 1912 Olympics. On the morning Jim was to compete, his shoes were stolen. Luckily, Jim found two shoes but they were not the same size. One of the shoes was too big so he had to wear an extra sock to make it fit. Wearing these shoes, Jim won two gold medals that day. Life is not always fair, but we can’t let obstacles keep us from running our race. We can have reasons or we can have results… but we can’t have both.

Again, Tennessee is being hit the hardest by Trump’s trade war by far.

At a House Budget hearing Dept. of Agriculture commissioner Charlie Hatcher was very frank about the pain being caused to Tennessee farmers by Trump’s tariffs, pointing out that 60% of our exports WERE going to China before the Trade War, but China is now importing from other suppliers (including Russia), and that even if the tariffs were to go away today it would take years to recover, despite repeated claims by Trump that the multi-billion farmer bailout is making them whole.

He also said the farmer bailout funds are not making farmers whole, despite what the president has been saying. Farm bankruptcies, and suicides, are both skyrocketing.

Farmers want trade, not aid. Trump needs to stop stealing our farmers’ shoes and end this disastrous Trade War.

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