South Carolina farmers join national campaign to promote opposition to tariffs

Harry Ott is president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau.   Contributed photo

Farmers for Free Trade has launched a campaign titled "Tariffs Hurt the Heartland" in an attempt to explain why tariffs are harming farmers, factory workers and the consumers who are paying their true cost.

South Carolina Farm Bureau President Harry Ott said whether you're talking about farming in the heartland or farming in the south, tariffs are bad for agriculture.

"From the East Coast to the West Coast to north and south, we believe agriculture is always the first target that other countries retaliate against because we are basically the only ones that have a trade surplus that they can go after," Ott said in an interview with Palmetto Business Daily. "We are opposed to tariffs. We don't like them. We support any effort to get rid of the tariffs that are being placed in existence, and certainly the retaliation against agriculture products."

Ott said the farm bureau is reaching out to elected officials and letting them know that tariffs are hurting farmers.

"It's directly coming out of the pockets of farmers," Ott said. "We have no way to pass the losses on."

Ott said they have lost approximately $70 million straight out of the pockets of farmers on just cotton, corn and soybeans in South Carolina since the tariffs started.

"That's why the message we are trying to tell people is that $12 billion package they are talking about in Washington seems like a tremendously high number, and it is a big number, but when you break that down over the number of acres we have planted in this country, it's not going to be a cure-all," Ott said. "While we are certainly grateful for the money, if you do the math, it just doesn't work out very well for the farmers."

Farmers for Free Trade's new campaign advertisements will highlight a real-life story of the cost of tariffs. The campaign will also organize town hall meetings and push to end what it calls the "job-killing trade war."

The first advertisement is called "Rounding Error" and is 30 seconds long. It is running on several national cable networks. "Rounding Error" says farmers, factory workers and rural communities are harmed by the trade war.

The ad states America's farmers and factory workers are not a "rounding error," as National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro was quoted as saying. The ad asks President Donald Trump to stop the trade war because it is harming rural communities and putting jobs at risk.

"The bottom line is tariffs are bad for agriculture all across the country and we are working with our elected officials in Washington to mitigate the damages as best we can by contacting them and pointing out the damages these tariffs are doing on agriculture," Ott said. "It is disheartening when you see people like Navarro talking about this only being a rounding error. If you are the farmer growing a couple hundred acres of soybeans and your livelihood depends on the price of those soybeans, it is not a rounding error. It is reality and it is the difference in making a payment and not making a payment. "

Farmers for Free Trade Executive Director Brian Kuehl said the campaign will tell real-life stories of farmers, factory workers and families who are affected by the tariffs.

"Washington lawmakers are advancing tariffs that cause pain to the very people who drive our economy," Kuehl said in a news release. "That pain will get worse as these policies continue to spur retaliation from other countries. To push back against this advancing trade war, we are going to tell the stories of the jobs, businesses and consumers who are too often being ignored by the people who make our nation’s policies but fail to consider the real-life cost."

Scott Henry, of LongView Farms in central Iowa, said as a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer his family understands what is needed for America's agriculture system to flourish, and it's not bailouts.

"We thought it was necessary to start a campaign like 'Tariffs Hurt the Heartland' because it didn’t feel like the president could hear us," Henry said. "Clear, consistent policy that respects exports and international trade is the best thing for our work."

Henry said as his farm's name implies, they take a "long view" when it comes to agriculture.

"Policy interference and restricted market access are two surefire ways to hamper innovation and long-term growth," Henry said. "I’ve joined the 'Tariffs Hurt the Heartland' campaign, because we clearly need a new way to get through to the president, so he hears our message loud and clear: tariffs hurt us. Clear the path for trade of homegrown agricultural products, and we’ll succeed"

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