As Democrats scramble for caucus support, many Iowa farmers say they plan to stick with Trump

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, January 29, 2020

By Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio News


One of the largest indoor farm shows in the country opened in Des Moines on Tuesday and it’s clear that many of the thousands of farmers attending who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016 will support him again in November.

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“Well, he’s trying to straighten out the trade,” said Ron Schutte who with his wife Pam grows corn and soybeans in Fredericksburg, Iowa.

“Most of the stuff he said he’d do, he’s trying to do — whether it’s getting done or not,” Pam Shutte said.

Farmers from all over Iowa and even some neighboring states have come to the Iowa Power Farming Show, said organizer Tom Junge.

“This is the third-largest indoor farm show in the United States. We’ll have somewhere around 20,000 to 25,000 farmers will come in,” Junge said.

Many of them have no interest in talking politics with a reporter. Of those willing to share an opinion, many are solid Trump supporters who, like Jerry Burns, say they would not even consider supporting a Democrat.

“I can’t stand the thieving Democrats — thieves, liars. You know, everybody’s on the verge of lock and loading,” Burns said.

President Trump’s trade policies have been hard on the farm economy. U.S. farm exports to China, which hit a record $25.9 billion in 2012, plummeted in 2018 to $9.1 billion. Soybean exports to China fell even more — to a 12-year low of $3.1 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture. Farm imports to China rebounded somewhat in 2019 but remain well below pre-trade-war levels.

The Trump administration says China will purchase $40 billion of agricultural goods in 2020 under the recently signed “phase one” U.S.-China deal.

Matt Bormann farms corn and beans in Algona in northwestern Iowa. He applauds Trump’s stance on trade. The president’s get-tough approach will help farmers in the long run, he said.

“I see what the guy is doing. He’s a president with a backbone. He’s standing up to people,” Bormann said. “We need more of that. We needed to do something about the unfair trade practices with China.”

Bormann said if Democrats are banking on Trump supporters looking to them for an alternative, they should think again.

“I don’t see that at all — not with the circle I run with or the people that I’m around. They’re more supportive of Trump than ever,” Bormann said.

David Young is not a farmer. He’s a politician who got the boot from his Iowa 3rd District congressional seat in the 2018 midterm elections.

He’s running again now in hopes of returning to Washington.

“I don’t see a backlash, and I get out there all over the district,” Young said. “There’s been a backlash against China and unfair trading partners.”

Trump will be in Des Moines Thursday rallying supporters. Young will be there. He said having Trump on the ticket will help his effort to win back the seat he lost two years ago.

Randy Dreher has a livestock and row crop farm an hour west of Des Moines. He said he voted for Trump in 2016. He won’t be attending the rally but says some of his friends will be there.

Like most other farm show attendees, Dreher, too, supports Trump’s approach to trade negotiations. But he makes it clear he does not agree with everything the bombastic commander-in-chief says and does.

Dreher said if Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar wins the nomination, he’ll at least consider switching allegiances.

“You know, to be quite honest, she would one of the ones who would be most appealing,” he said.

Dreher calls some proposals from other Democratic candidates “socialistic and communistic.”

He said he likes the way Klobuchar talks about solutions in her TV ads. He also likes that she’s aware of the challenges facing people like him who live in the Midwest.

“It would be interesting to see more from her — especially in debates and actual discussion about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to solve it versus the rhetoric of you know, they’re bad because they’re my opponent,” he said.


— The Associated Press contributed to this report.