Support for President Trump among Missouri’s Republicans in Congress who represent heavily rural districts is solid but varied.
The recent tariffs have clouded the picture for some GOP House members, while at least one is still lavishly laying high praise on the president.
Congressman Jason Smith released a statement late Thursday noting the European Union indicated it could allow for more U.S. beef imports after 2009 tariffs diminished the American supply to the continent. “These are exactly the trade barriers President Trump wants to eliminate,” said Congressman Smith. “Our farmers and ranchers can compete and win on the world stage, as long as they are on a level playing field.”
Smith represents Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District which includes West Plains, Rolla, Farmington, Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff. The Congressman is meeting with farmers and ranchers across southern Missouri this month.
Yesterday, he says he “shared good news from President Trump’s trade negotiations with the European Union for America’s beef producers” with award-winning cattleman David Steinbecker Jr. of Perryville.
Overtures from the E.U. to sell more tariff-free American beef in Europe largely came in April and was viewed as a potential olive branch to avoid a full-blown trade war.
President Trump has slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico, China and the European Union. Those nations have responded with their own trade levies.
China imposed retaliatory tariffs on a broad range of U.S. agricultural products, including apples, pork, soybeans, beef, corn and dairy products. Mexico is levying tariffs on pork, potatoes, cheeses and apples, among other things.
After hearing about deep concerns from the agricultural industry, Trump announced he was proposing $12 billion in aid to distressed farmers in a speech to a VFW convention in Kansas City last week. Much of the industry has responded by saying that farmers don’t want a bailout, but instead want a solution.
No Missouri member of Congress has echoed that sentiment, possibly because the President still has a 50% approval rating in the state. Numbers compiled by Morning Consult show support for Trump in Missouri has dropped 3% from his first month in office in January 2017.
Smith remains an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of the President and his trade policies even though a nail factory in his district announced major layoffs due to tariffs.
Two other Republican Congressmen who represent largely rural areas have been somewhat more muted in backing Trump on tariffs.
GOP House member Sam Graves issued a statement Thursday where he was cautious in defending tariffs. “Threats of a potential trade war spurred by the recently imposed tariffs continue to dominate the headlines and cause concern among many across North Missouri,” said Graves.
He told Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network last week that the President is playing the “long game” to get better trade deals. “Unfortunately, the “long game” is a much tougher game to play when you’re looking at rising steel prices and lower soybean prices in the short term,” said Graves.
Corn and soybean prices have fallen roughly 20% since China announced that it was putting tariffs on them back in the spring.
In his statement, Graves told his constituents that he hoped there would be long-term gains from the President’s tariffs. “I will continue to advise the Administration on what folks in North Missouri think about actions directly affecting their bottom line,” Graves said.
Southwestern Missouri Republican Congressman Billy Long appeared on Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV Thursday night, where he said businesses in his district are still behind President Trump and are hopeful trade conditions will improve in the end.
“Our farmers and our manufacturers are saying ‘Give him a chance on this tariff deal,” said Long. “And hopefully before anything is really implemented that’s going to be tough on people, it’ll come back around, and we’ll end up with better deals.”
Long was an early backer of Trump from the Presidential campaign in 2016. He told KOLR-TV that farmers are especially receptive to a wait and see approach to the President’s strategy. “They are behind the president,” Long said. “They are supporting the president, and they’re saying ‘Let’s see what happens.’ They’re giving him enough chain to get out there and do a deal, then come back and report back to us.”
Long, Graves and Smith are all up for re-election this year in safely Republican Congressional districts. None of the three are facing serious competition in Tuesday’s primary.
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