Will the Farm Belt Eventually Abandon Donald Trump?


Ed Kilgore says that it’s not clear yet how much of Donald Trump’s appeal to rural white voters is economic:

We may soon have an answer in rural communities that still largely depend on agriculture for jobs and income. While it did not get much, if any, national attention during the presidential general election, it may soon matter a lot that Trump is largely at odds with the farm lobby when it comes to two of his signature economic policy issues: his opposition to trade agreements and to comprehensive immigration reform. The American Farm Bureau has traditionally viewed trade agreements — particularly those with fast-growing Asian countries — as creating export opportunity for farmers and agribusinesses. It strongly supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that Trump (and eventually Clinton) opposed. And it has also favored comprehensive immigration reform in order to stabilize the farm-labor supply and protect undocumented migrant farm workers.

I’m not buying it. First off, take a look at the chart on the right—and pay special attention to the units on the vertical axis. It comes from the International Trade Commission’s report on the “likely impact” of TPP. In the agricultural sector, it’s minuscule. By ditching the TPP, farm employment will lose a benefit of 0.031 percent per year. That amounts to maybe a hundred workers each in the biggest Midwest agricultural states.

You wouldn’t notice this if you lost that many jobs, let alone merely failed to gain them. And that’s assuming that Trump kills TPP in the first place, rather than renegotiating a few bits and pieces and then declaring victory. Either way, it’s just not big enough for any of his supporters to notice.

As for migrant farm workers, the business community has been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform forever. Likewise, the base of the Republican Party has been against it forever. There’s nothing new here, and nothing that’s likely to split Trump’s coalition.