Nebraska Farmers Are Collateral Damage In Fortenberry/Trump Trade War
Jeff Fortenberry is one of Trump’s most ardent supporters. At the time Trump was inaugurated, Fortenberry lavished praise on his inaugural address and claimed it “was a striking and direct call for a new healthy nationalism.” (In contrast, former President George W. Bush said: “That was some weird shit.”)
The long time CD-1 member of Congress votes with Trump 98% of the time. But it even goes further than that. Fortenberry will not criticize Trump’s vile and boorish behavior. I have been to townhall meetings where Fortenberry simply refused to answer questions about Trump’s bad behavior. He just won’t go there.
The First CD member of Congress even went so far as to defend Michael Flynn, a convicted felon and Trump’s disgraced former National Security Adviser. When Flynn was charged with wrongdoing in 2017, Fortenberry posted on his Facebook account that: “Please show me proof that Michael Flynn was a Russian agent. This slanderous. No proof at all. He got fired because he misrepresented his conversations with Russian ambassador to Pence. No crime at all.”
Fortenberry has done the most harm to his constituents by virtue of his support for the failed Trump trade war. When Trump declared his trade war in 2017 on China, Canada, Mexico and the EU, he bragged that: “Trade wars are good and easy to win.” (That absurd prediction will go down in infamy along with the Bush Administration’s prediction that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and that Iraqi oil would finance the reconstruction of that country.)
Initially, Fortenberry waffled on the impact of Trump’s misguided trade war with most of the world. In 2018, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry said that the tariffs on China “may or may not prove to be a beneficial move for the U.S.” Eventually, to no one’s surprise, the long time CD01 House member surrendered to Trump. “This reckoning has to take place with China,” he claimed.
Since the Fortenberry/Trump trade war began, U.S. agricultural exports to China have largely disappeared. Earlier this year, China announced that it was ceasing to buy soy beans from the U.S. Instead, the Chinese began to purchase soy beans from Russia and Brazil. Unfortunately for his constituents, Fortenberry represents many of the soybean-heavy counties in eastern Nebraska that have seen the biggest drops in exports.
Fortenberry’s trade policies have devastated Nebraska farmers. According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau, our farmers have lost approximately $2 billion in revenues in 2018–19 due to retaliatory tariffs and the loss of export markets. The trade assistance payments that farmers have received from the Trump Administration haven’t made the farmers whole — farmers would rather have markets than welfare. (Incidentally, the Nebraska Farm Bureau endorsed Trump in 2016 even though his protectionist trade policies were well known at the time. This right wing insurance company has not yet offered an explanation for why they supported Trump.)
The cost of Trump’s failed farm bailout program is $28 billion and counting. Moreover, most of those payments have been made to wealthy farmers. According to the L.A. Times: “ The vast majority of the dollars flowing to the agriculture industry via the bailouts is likely to go to farms with annual revenues of several million dollars.” The cost of the farm bailout is now double the cost of the successful Obama Administration auto industry rescue. Where are the Tea Party rallies?
The trade war isn’t the only Trump/Fortenberry policy that is hurting farmers. The Administration has kowtowed to big oil by reducing ethanol production and taking away another valuable market from our farmers. According to the Des Moines Register: “ Since taking office, the Trump administration has granted 85 refineries a pass from buying 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel, killing demand for 1.4 billion bushels of corn used to make it.” Nick Bowdish, CEO of Elite Ethanol in Atlantic, Iowa said it best: “If people connected to agriculture decide to vote for the president, they’re just voting to cut off their own economic prosperity.”
This is a radical and incompetent Administration that is indifferent — if not hostile — to farmers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently ridiculed farmers as “whiners.” Moreover, Perdue threw small family farms under the bus when he said: “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” Apparently, Perdue is of the belief that ultimate goal of the so-called “free market” is to reduce competition and achieve an oligopoly or monopoly environment.
It is becoming increasingly evident that 2020 will be a difficult election cycle for Republicans. Fortenberry is defending a lawless president and the economy appears to be poised to slip into a recession. There is also evidence of Fortenberry fatigue in CD01. In 2018, Jessica McClure carried Lancaster County and picked up 40% of the vote even though she was out spent by a margin of $645,000 to $77,000. It was the best showing for a Democratic nominee in CD01 since 2006.
It is being rumored that State Senator Kate Bolz will soon enter the race and challenge Fortenberry. Bolz would be the most formidable challenger Fortenberry has faced since 2006 when he ran against former Lieutenant Governor Maxine Moul. In the Unicameral, Senator Bolz has been a champion for farmers, senior citizens and the middle class. She would be a great member of Congress.
I expect 2020 to be a good cycle for the Democrats. Trump is an historically unpopular president and the Trump/Fortenberry trade war has devastated Nebraska farmers. This is our time! Let’s repeal and replace Fortenberry!