Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he would like to see an end to trade disputes with China, but says Trump’s decision to provide $12 billion in subsidies to American farmers might be a good short-term solution to trade shortfalls.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday a plan to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury to pay farmers hurt by trade battles with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
The escalating trade war has hurt many Ohio farmers producing soybeans, pork and corn, among other products. An Ohio State study found that some farmers could even lose up to half their annual income due to Chinese retaliation against the Trump administration’s tariffs.
Portman said he believes expanded markets are the better option but does not completely oppose the bailout.
“’Trade, not aid,’ as farmers told me this past weekend," he said. "But maybe in the short term this could help some farmers get through a difficult period. And one would hope that we can work something out with China during this interim period that would allow these markets to come back.”
Along with other Republicans, Portman has criticized the president’s current trade policy as risky, urging the re-establishment of trade markets with China. He said a better chance of short-term success is with America’s largest partner, Canada, along with Mexico through the NAFTA negotiations.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican, had harsher words for Trump's tactics. At the Ohio State Fair, he commented that Trump's imposition of tariffs on products from allies like Canada under national security grounds was "completely absurd."
Kasich said that president is now resorting to "farm welfare" when farmers want trade. He says the Department of Agriculture's plan will only compound tariff damage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.