Rep. Bustos says President is treating Illinois farms like “flyover country”

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Tensions between the United States and China are escalating, driving fears here at home that the trade battle could turn into a trade war. 

The flurry of tweets can be confusing.

Local 4 News broke down the latest developments for you:  

  • The President started this week by cracking down on the ZTE Corporation on Monday. 
  • The Commerce Department banned American companies from selling parts and services to ZTE for seven years. It’s the fourth biggest smartphone supplier for the United States. 
  • China hit back Wednesday by adding a 179% charge on American shipments of sorghum. The grain is used to feed livestock and make liquor. China is the largest buyer of U.S. grown sorghum. Those exports were worth nearly a billion dollars last year.

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos says the President is making all the wrong moves, and it’s hurting local farmers.  

Earlier this month, she published a column in the Dispatch Argus blasting the commander-in-chief, saying, “trade is complex” and “it must be done thoughtfully and deliberately, not as some knee-jerk impulse that ignores basic economics.” 

Local 4’s Tahera Rahman asked her what basic economic ideas she thinks aren’t being factored into the President’s equation when it comes to tariffs, and what it means for farmers at home. 

That’s part one of a special report. 

“Sitting in a Congressional district that Donald Trump won, what I would say is, ‘Don’t treat us like flyover country. Don’t spit in the face of the family farmer,'” says Bustos.

“And keep in mind that about a quarter of all of the soybeans that are produced in the state of Illinois go to China. And to be on the verge of a trade war where those who will be hurt the hardest are our family farmers, I would ask the president to think again about this. If he’s just trying to lob out an idea out in the atmosphere, there are real world consequences to that.” 

Tahera: “What do you think the tariff impact could translate to for Illinois’ economy?” 

Rep. Bustos: “They could be to the tune of billions of dollars hurting the ag industry. On top of that, every time the President throws out pulling out of NAFTA, there are real world consequences to that. Our biggest trading partners are Canada and Mexico. So that, too, you’ve got Argentina and Brazil waiting to do more business with Mexico. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have to take a look at NAFTA again. NAFTA actually helped places like John Deere and Caterpillar, but it hurt many of our workers, like the workers at Maytag. So, let’s be smart about it, let’s stop throwing out these ideas publicly. The negotiations on trade policy are typically done with men and women sitting in a room talking about the give and the take of how free trade works and that does not seem to be a practice that we’re seeing from President Trump.”

Tahera: “What are you going to do to make sure this isn’t devastating [for our farmers]?”

Rep. Bustos: “We, meaning Democrats, have a 23-vote minority and so we don’t run the committees; we don’t run the ag committee, we don’t run energy and commerce, we don’t run transportation and infrastructure, so I am yet one vote and I can yell and kick and scream and fight for our family farmers and that is what I will do, but in the end we have to make sure that the President is on the right side of family farmers, is on the right side of the ag economy. Because that’s who holds the levers of power out in Washington, D.C.”

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