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Nebraska GOP Enables Trump’s War On Nebraska Farmers

Just about every prominent elected Nebraska Republican official supported Trump in 2016 and were exultant when he won his controversial (and tainted victory) in the electoral college. Representative Jeff Fortenberry said the election results made him “optimistic” and that Trump’s inaugural address “was a striking and direct call for a new healthy nationalism.” Deb Fischer was gushing in her praise for Trump: “There’s been a shift in feeling in the state. People are hopeful again. Companies are making plans to expand and hire.” Don Bacon was also on the Trump Train expressing his hope that Trump would be good for farmers, ranchers, small businesses and community banks. Governor Pete Ricketts described Trump’s victory as “very exciting.”

The only two possible exceptions were Senator Ben Sasse and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. In any event, their so-called “opposition” to Trump now rings hollow. Thus far, Ben Sasse has voted with Trump 100% of the time and is an ardent support of the Neil Gorsuch nomination. Stothert — without any evidence — has alleged that she wrote in John McCain last November but she only told the voters that after the election. Nevertheless, Stothert has since come out in favor of Trump saying that: “Now that Donald Trump is elected President of the United States I will back him and support him.”

Since Trump has taken office, he has taken steps that would be very detrimental to Nebraska’s farmers and agricultural industry. In January, Trump blew up U.S. relations with Mexico when he announced he would pay for his controversial border wall with a 20% tax on imports from Mexico. Nebraska farm leaders who supported Trump immediately expressed alarm because Mexico is Nebraska’s second largest export market. As Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said: “This has the potential to be devastating to agriculture, U.S. agriculture and Nebraska agriculture. And also certainly would not be good for the entire economy to the state of Nebraska.”

Since Trump announced this destructive trade war with Mexico, prominent members of Mexico’s Senate are calling for a boycott of U.S. corn. Moreover, Mexico’s government is now in talks with Brazil and Argentina to import corn from those nations on a tax free basis. This threatened boycott is Mexico’s response to Trump’s threatened trade war with that country.

This trade war threat was just the first of several hits to Nebraska’s vital agricultural sector from the Trump Administration. This threat was followed up by Trump’s proposed budget which would (partially) finance a tax cut for the rich by cutting $4.7 billion from the Department of Agriculture’s budget. Once again, the Nebraska Farm Bureau — which endorsed Trump — expressed concern. Nebraska Farm Bureau’s director of national affairs, Jordan Dux said: “I can’t say that we’re overly supportive.”

Trump’s signature promise to deport 11 million aspiring Americans would constitute another hit to Nebraska’s ailing agricultural sector. Many farmers recently interviewed by the Omaha World Herald said that Trump’s policies would disrupt the supply of workers that they rely upon. If Trump follows through with his promise of mass deportations, their crops could literally rot in the fields. Many of these farmers called for a pathway to citizenship for these aspiring Americans.

Unfortunately, Nebraska’s Congressional delegation is in a poor position to defend our economy from the destructive policies of the Trump Administration. This is because for the first time since the Nixon Administration, there are no Nebraska members of Congress on the Agriculture Committee in either House. We are in this predicament since Ben Sasse chose to leave the Agriculture Committee for the Judiciary Committee. A recent editorial from the GOP-leaning Omaha World Herald labeled as “troubling,” Sasse’s decision to abandon Nebraska’s farmers.

What is maddening about Trump’s war on Nebraska agriculture, is that his policies on trade and immigration were the centerpiece of his campaign. These were perhaps the only two consistent promises that Trump made and maintained during his erratic campaign for the presidency. Nevertheless, Nebraska’s Republican elected officials and agricultural leaders endorsed Trump. It is pretty evident that they weren’t paying sufficient attention and that they badly let down their supporters.

This is perhaps the worst possible time for the federal government to declare war on Nebraska’s farm economy. Commodity prices are about half of what they were as recently as 2014 and the state of Nebraska is looking at a $1 billion budget deficit. At the same time, Nebraska’s Congressional delegation literally votes with Trump 100% of the time and has basically left our farmers defenseless.

I expect the voters in Nebraska’s small towns and rural areas to soon have a bad case of buyer’s remorse. This sets up a big opportunity for Nebraska’s Democratic candidates. We need to engage the rural voters and let them know that we are on their side. Our policies are generally supportive of the middle class and working families. Moreover, history clearly demonstrates that the agricultural economy does better when we have Democratic presidents.

We have a big opportunity in the 2018 mid-term elections. Already, the major political handicappers are saying that the Democrats have an excellent chance to regain control of the House of Representatives next year. As Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report said: “If I were a House Republican, I’d be very nervous.” Let’s get it done! We can win this! Let’s leave it all on the field!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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