Ohio's Republican governor on Wednesday helped open the Ohio State Fair by blasting President Donald Trump's trade battles, which have left some farmers feeling less than festive amid the funnel cakes and butter sculptures.
Farmers at the 12-day fair filled with livestock, games, rides and other entertainment said they understand the need for balanced trade but are concerned about what will happen if the tariff battles drag on and worsen.
"It's just important that he (Trump) recognizes how that's affecting Middle America," said Bryan Bush, who farms in Edison, Ohio, some 50 miles north of Columbus. "I think farmers are bearing the brunt of some of it with the tariffs that China has imposed on things that way ... but it all works together as a country."
Gov. John Kasich, on hand for the fair's opening, said Trump's imposition of tariffs on products from such allies as Canada under national security grounds was "completely absurd' and insulting to countries that have stood with the United States in wartime. He said now Trump is resorting to "farm welfare" when farmers "don't want aid, they want trade."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday announced a $12 billion, three-part plan to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury to pay farmers hurt by the trade battles with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. China is the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans and one of the largest importers of U.S. pork, key products for farmers in a state where agriculture remains a major economic driver.
Jerry Klopfenstein, who farms in Paulding County in northwest Ohio, said he knows Trump is seeking "a level playing field" rather than letting other countries "run over us." He said he had anticipated and planned for the tariff impacts.
"Hopefully it all gets settled before there's any long-term damage or even short-term damage, and I appreciate that at least that they're recognizing that the farmer is kind of on the short side of it right now," Klopfenstein said.
Tom Fontana, the Ohio Soybean Council's director of research and education, said every third row of soybeans grown in Ohio is sold to China.
"I think farmers have a wait-and-see attitude still, but I think as time goes on, there's more and more concern about their profitability going forward," Fontana said.
Kasich, a frequent Trump critic and 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination, said the agriculture plan announced this week will only compound tariff damage by worsening U.S. debt.
"This really a terrible, terrible policy," Kasich told reporters.
Still riled up while touring the fairgrounds, Kasich later called it a "blatant political" move that someone dreamed up in the middle of the night to protect Trump support in a swing state the Republican carried decisively in the 2016 election.
"You have to wonder, is this about vote-buying; is this about the fact that you don't want farmers turning against you in a midterm when they're suffering the consequences of trade?" Kasich said, adding that other businesses and also consumers are going to feel the impacts. "What's the next group we have to bail out to spare the pain of a tariff that doesn't make any sense?"