Sunday, August 12, 2018

For Wisconsin's Dairy Farmers, Tariffs Could Reshape The Race For The Senate

Janet Clark hopes to keep her dairy farm in the family. She inherited Vision Aire Farms from her parents, and now runs it with her younger brother. The farm is idyllic, tucked away amid rolling green hills of corn and sunflower fields. One side of the farm holds a line of calves. They are individually fed by Clark's children and their cousins, playfully holding milk bottles for them to drink. It's here where Clark and her family begin work each day at 5:30 a.m., doing chores and milking cows. But times are tough. Milk prices have already fallen 4 percent this year, continuing a steady decline since 2014, according to data from the Labor Department. Meanwhile, net farm income, a broad measure of profits, is forecast to drop this year to its lowest level since 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture. "It hits my bottom line," Clark says about falling milk prices. "The last two years have been most challenging." Even tougher times might be ahead, she worries. Wisconsin is the number two dairy supplier in the country. In an industry where margins can be razor thin, farmers like Clark have come to rely on selling their milk products abroad, specifically Mexico, which is one of the biggest importers of U.S. dairy. When the Trump administration announced earlier this year that Mexico, Canada and the European Union would face tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, Mexico responded by levying tariffs of up to 25 percent on U.S. dairy products. Clark says those tariffs threaten business relationships that farmers have spent years cultivating. "We have created relationships with the people that we're exporting with," Clark says. "Now they're going to back off, and not buy from us. So that opens the door for other people to create those relationships." The president's tariffs are a complicated subject for many farmers in Wisconsin. The state's rural communities swung hard for Donald Trump in 2016, helping him become the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Clark says shesupports the president, but admits she's worried. The White House has proposed a plan to spend $12 billion in emergency farm aid, but says Clark, "I would rather have trade than have aid." It's a mantra echoed my many farmers in Wisconsin...MORE

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