Farmer support for President Donald Trump is holding steady to nudging slightly higher than it was a month ago, according to the latest Farm Journal Pulse.
Seventy-eight percent of the 1,043 farmers and ranchers who weighed-in on the end-of-January poll say they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the way President Trump is conducting his job. Only 20% say they disapprove of Trump’s handling of his job. Two percent were not sure.
The poll is the second in a series to track sentiment on the president’s job performance amongst farmers, ranchers and agribusiness.
Trump’s high approval rating in January is statistically no different than the 76% approval rating he received from the agriculture industry in December. However, it does reaffirm how strongly the ag community continues to support the president and his policies.
Randy Russell, The Russell Group, attributes the ag community’s continued high marks for Trump to a couple of reasons.
“The president has made controlling the border, securing the border and the ill effects of what happens when you don't control the border, a very big issue, and I think farmers and rural Americans support and agree with that,” Russell says.
“(Second), the Chinese have been stealing our intellectual property and forcing companies to transfer technology to them (for years). We're at a pivotal point in terms of those kinds of issues, and for the first time we’ve got a president who’s trying to do something about it. Farmers may not agree with every tactic he uses or with everything he says but, by God, they support what he's trying to accomplish.”
Trade efforts find traction. Reuters reports China purchased at least 1 million metric tons of soybeans from the U.S. on Friday. U.S. negotiators are expected to visit China for another round of discussions sometime in mid-February. Based on those positives, Russell anticipates farmers’ approval of Trump will only strengthen during the next few weeks.
“If progress with China goes like we think it's going to at this point, it'll be a very positive development,” Russell says. “Not only will agriculture, I think, be a big winner in an agreement with China, but I think the ag community is going to give (Trump) a lot of credit for addressing some of those issues that aren't just agriculture related but are important for every single American going generations ahead.”
The upbeat news on U.S.-China trade relations arrived just in time, adds Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer policy analyst.
“Farmers and ranchers were always going to give him a certain time period to (resolve trade issues), and it looks to be by the Ides of March of this year,” he says, referencing the decision by Trump’s administration to set March 2 as the date to start imposing higher tariffs on China if it believes trade talks are stalled.
“This is very good timing for at least the potential for president Trump to deliver, because he needs some wins now in trade policy and definitely in farm country,” Wiesemeyer adds. “That goodwill (could) only go on for so long.”
Wiesemeyer is calling 2019 a “gut-check year” for the president and agriculture because of the continued poor economic outlook for commodity products.
“Working capital is down 70% from the high in 2012. Lots of farmers and ranchers, the majority probably, have eaten into a lot of their equity so they need a turnaround in prices, and that also means policy as well,” Wiesemeyer says. “They feel like they have served on the open front in some of these battles, willingly so until now. There has to be a time in which you show some progress, and it looks to be at hand.”