Trade War Prospect Shakes Part of Trump Base: Midwest Farmers

That means balancing the concerns of the two sectors so that neither steelworkers nor farmers get a raw deal, he said.

Navigating among competing domestic and global interests is complicated, though.

Two weeks after the administration imposed a tariff on solar panels, China opened an anti-dumping investigation into American exports of sorghum, a grain used in livestock feed. The United States was virtually China’s sole foreign source of sorghum last year, with $1 billion in sales. Almost half of the American crop is grown in Kansas.

This week, the European Commission presented its members with a $3.5 billion list of American products that could be targets of retaliatory measures, and agricultural products were on the list.

On Thursday, the House speaker, Representative Paul Ryan, issued a statement that said, “I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences,” and added, “We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law.”

Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, is no doubt trying to assure constituents like Mike Cerny, a soybean and corn farmer in Sharon who works about 2,500 acres of land, some his own, some his customers’.

Mr. Cerny, who voted for Mr. Trump, said he liked most of Mr. Trump’s policies, particularly tax cuts. But if the tariffs “were to start some kind of a trade war, this would not be good for his support in farm country,” he added.

His perspective is shared by Davie Stephens, vice president of the American Soybean Association, who farms about 5,500 acres in Kentucky, the home state of Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader.

“Of course I’m worried about the tariffs,” he said. He and other association members plan to meet with Mr. McConnell and other members of Congress when they visit the capital next week. “We’re making sure we do have that access to the global market,” Mr. Stephens said, after he finished unloading a forklift on his farm in Wingo, in western Kentucky.

Over the years, Mr. Stephens, 67, said, he has voted for Republican and Democratic presidents. “I’ve supported everything they’ve tried to do for farmers,” he said, “but any tariff could hurt farmers if our consumers retaliate.”

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