Economic sanctions will hurt U.S. farmers for a generation at least

U.S. Presidents, during my 70 year lifespan, have been working overtime to endanger the U.S. agricultural economy.

The  summer of 2017, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, one of the few “adults” making domestic policy in the Trump Administration, was in China praising the Peoples Republic of China for its increased purchases of meat. Now our livestock farmers, who voted heavily for the President, must face the prospect that Trump’s economic saber rattling will make it more difficult for them to pay for their children’s college education.


Rice Research and Extension personnel are constantly working to refine and create new recommendations and practices to improve Arkansas rice production.


The economic disaster the Trump Administration has wrought already on our agricultural economy is considerable.

Consider rice farming in Arkansas and Louisiana and chicken farming in Perdue’s home state of Georgia. On January 17th, The Arkansas News Bureau reported, “Arkansas lawmakers slam Trump’s Cuba policy.” Arkansas is a keystone in our self-destructive President’s insistence on catering to his 34 percent supporters among the American people. The press has been scrutinizing Trump’s hard core supporters for evidence this support might not be as solid. Unfortunately, our “fake news” reporters have ignored the fissures in the agricultural community– a community instrumental in putting Trump in office.

The Arkansas News Bureau highlighted the comments of the state’s senior senator. “Republican Sen. John Boozman said in a statement Friday he shares Trump’s desire to see democracy take hold in Cuba but believes that ‘a return to embargo-like policies is the wrong approach.

“’By rolling back reforms that have benefited U.S. citizens, everyday Cubans and our economy, we are taking a step backward, not forward. It would be more effective to continue an open line of communication and working relationship with a government in need of democratic assistance, instead of shutting them out,’ he said.”

In November, over 60 percent of Arkansas voters chose Donald Trump. Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ junior senator, flush with campaign funds, of course a Republican, is rumored to be contemplating a Presidential run in 2020. Notable among the intellectual lightweight Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, is Rep. Rick Crawford who has emerged as one of the few members of Congress who know anything about agriculture policy. Sixty-five percent of Crawford’s constituents in the First Congressional District voted for Trump.

On June 1, 2017, Crawford issued the following statement, “I strongly oppose President Trump’s decision to reinstate a failed, outdated, and isolationist posture towards Cuba. This policy change is … a missed opportunity for rural America, which would greatly benefit from increased access to the island’s $2B agricultural imports market.”

A key member of (what I grandiously refer to as) my kitchen cabinet on agriculture is an unfortunately anonymous Georgia economics professor. Professor X warned me not to publicly oppose the wastefully expensive farm bill unlikely to be renewed in 2018.


As soon as convenient, I plan to have a return visit to Stuttgart, Arkansas.

There Riceland Foods, in the company of such grain trading giants as Cargill and Bunge (sadly experiencing business problems) are actually making our country’s food policy. This is rightfully so given the failure of Congress and the Administration to know anything about the subject.

“The farmers and the folks at Riceland will not talk to you,” my professor said. My friend is overstating the case. Our farmers, whose presence and future are dependent upon exports, continue to talk to me because I am a globalist, very much concerned about agriculture’s future.

U.S. agriculture policy is at a crossroads similar to the crossroads the British experienced in the 19th Century when repeal of the Corn Laws was a necessary requirement for Britain to become an empire. Today, our farmers have been the victims of disastrous decisions by Republican and Democratic Administrations and Congresses who continue the folly. Beginning with the soybean embargo against the Japanese in 1973, our politicians have worked effectively (i.e. disastrously) to make America the supplier of last resort. Today, Brazil has supplanted the U.S. as the principal exporter of soybeans.

On September 6, 2017, The Financial Times reported  Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opposed U.S. economic sanctions against his country, also opposes sanctions against North Korea.

Putin noted, “Russia’s skepticism about sanctions is shared by China, North Korea’s fellow Communist neighbor and largest trading partner by far. China fears the collapse of the Pyongyang regime and the humanitarian and geopolitical chaos that could ensue.”

Rarely did I think I would agree with Vladimir Putin, Russian Stalinist dictator. His view on sanctions affirms this reality. Economic sanctions do not work. Twenty Eighteen’s knee jerk reaction to the global,economy  has resulted already resulted in This continues last year’s food sanctions against Iran and threats to our agricultural exports under Trump’s protectionist anti-NAFTA rumblings.

Hard as it is to believe,  I fear the day will approach when (as a consequence of our political folly) within 25 years ( if not sooner) the U.S. may  have to rely on the world for the food we eat.

–Joel Solkoff

State College, PA

Joel Solkoff is the author of The Politics of Food.