Montana Politicians, Farmers Say Trump Tariffs Are Bad For Ag

Mar 8, 2018

Montana's congressional delegation is criticizing President Trump's order to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, saying that the decision will harm the state's farmers and ranchers.

In an audio statement, Republican Representative Greg Gianforte was blunt.

"These tariffs are a bad idea, because they could lead to Montana ag products being shut out of foreign markets," he said.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester's statement described the decision as "instigating a trade war."

Republican Senator Steve Daines pledged in a press release to support Trump's "efforts to make better trade deals for the American worker" but said that he remained worried about tariffs leading to higher costs for Montana farmers and ranchers.

Michelle Erickson-Jones is the President of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She says farmers worry that U.S. trading partners will retaliate with their own levies on U.S. agricultural imports.

"So when we put a tariff on something that seems totally unrelated like steel and aluminum, we fully expect that agriculture will be the first one retaliated against," she said. "Retaliation is really our big concern."

Erickson-Jones explained that the economic effect of tariffs isn't about immediate price fluctuations of agricultural products, but about their long-term outlooks.

When you're dealing with trade, a lot of the effects are slow to be realized," she said. "There will likely not be any concrete movement in the market. But what it does establish for decades is market share."

With 80 percent of Montana's wheat being exported, Erickson-Jones says the threat of losing international markets is serious.