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Trade War’s Impact on People: Iowa

PortandTerminal.com, May 27, 2019

Iowa farmers are worried about the upcoming planting season. As the U.S.’s trade war with China escalates, commodity prices like soy, corn and pork are getting hammered. The bills don’t go away. Just the customers.

Des Moines, Iowa – “A lot of us think it can’t get any worse, that it can only go up from here. But that’s probably not a safe bet,” Brent Renner, an Iowan farmer commented when interviewed by the Des Moines Register.

It’s late planting season here Iowa and its a struggle to feel optimistic about the soybean, corn and pork prices which Iowans depend upon to stay in business.

“Farmers, particularly soybean farmers, have been the tip of the spear when it comes to Chinese retaliation, and I’m not sure they can take much more,” said Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association.


Iowa has a population of about 3.1 million people. Demographically, the state is white (91%) and rural (61%).

Iowa is the Canada of the Midwest. Everyone is really friendly here

Richard Queener, resident of Creston, Iowa (population 8,000)

In 2016 Iowans overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump who won the state by the largest margin of any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980. That may be slowly changing now though. President Trump’s approval rating has dropped 17 points since 2016. The trade war has hurt Iowa badly.

Impact of trade war on Iowa

Iowa is the nation’s largest pork, corn and egg producer, and second-largest soybean grower.

The state has been especially hard hit by Trump’s trade policies and retaliation by China and other countries, according to the US Chamber of Commerce. The state has 456,300 jobs supported by trade, according to the chamber.

Iowa State University published a paper on the impact of the trade war on the state titled “The Impact of the 2018 Trade Disruptions on the Iowa Economy” (Download available below).

The report found that in a state that relies heavily upon farming, soybean, corn and pork exports, all are down by an estimated $1.7 billion to $2.2 billion dollars. Lost income associated with producing these three commodities is down between $366 million to $484 million as well.


In this May 22, 2019, photo, farmer Tim Bardole pauses for a photo as he plants a field near Perry, Iowa. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

President Trump has acknowledged the impact of the tariffs – especially retaliatory duties on soybeans and other US agricultural products. The federal government will send another round of aid — $16 billion — to help farmers reeling financially by his ongoing trade war with China.

Farmers don’t want aid. They want trade

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley

“He does really seem to be fighting for us,” farmer Tim Bardole says, “even if it feels like the two sides are throwing punches and we’re in the middle, taking most of the hits.”



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