Could Trump’s Trade War Hurt His Chances In Michigan? Tariffs Have Impacted Farming, Steel In Swing State

As President Donald Trump fights to win battleground state Michigan, there is evidence that his tariff policies have hurt his chances. Steel and agriculture are important industries in the state and billions of dollars have been lost due to tariffs.

In March 2018, the Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on steel in order to protect American steel mills from foreign competition. The tariffs decreased demand for steel from the auto industry and other consumers, hurting steel plants.

Great Lakes Works, one of the largest mills in Michigan, laid off 1,250 workers in June and shut down steelmaking operations. The plant is owned by Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel.

A Reuters analysis reveals that Michigan steelmakers have issued layoff notices to 2,000 workers since the tariffs were implemented. 

The trade war has also hurt Michigan farmers. When Trump announced new tariffs on $60 billion of Chinese imports in May 2019, some farmers spoke out against the move. 

“The noose is getting tighter,” president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association Jim Byrum told the Detroit Free Press that month. “We have lost market opportunities. We’re not shipping soybeans around the world like we normally would. We’re not shipping them to China. China was our biggest soybean consumer, and they’re not moving.”

The Agriculture Department launched the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to help farmers in 2019. The program distributes payments to farmers negatively impacted by the trade war. 

A report by the Government Accountability Office published in September found Michigan farmers received less on average from the MFP than farmers in other states.

Tariffs Hurt the Heartland notes that Americans have paid over $60 billion in tariffs since the trade war began. In Michigan, more than $2 billion in tariffs have been paid by taxpayers while 1.1 million jobs in the state are supported by trade.

Some Michigan farmers still have Trump’s back, however, and plan to support his reelection bid. In order for Trump to win Michigan this cycle, he will need high turnout from the mostly rural northern parts of the state.

Recent polls show Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading Trump in Michigan. A Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey released Friday showed Biden leading Trump by 8 points in the Wolverine State, 50% to 42%.

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