Farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing, but they want the administration to focus more on exports and ending the trade war with China.
That's according to a new nationwide Agri-Pulse poll of 600 commercial farmers and ranchers, conducted over the phone by Aimpoint Research from Oct. 12-28.
"President Trump mentions his support for farmers and his work on trade at just about every rural campaign rally — even as economic conditions on the farm are difficult for many," says Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant. "According to our research, farmers are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and appear optimistic that his trade and regulatory policies will pay off in the long run."
About 79 percent of the farmers reached by telephone either approve or strongly approve of President Trump, compared to 19 percent who disapprove. Broken down by party lines, 92 percent of the GOP farmers approved of the way Trump is handling the nation's top job, compared to 33 percent of the Democrats and 65 percent of the independents.
Some 67 percent of the Democratic farmers polled — who represented about 12 percent of the total respondents — disapprove of Trump's performance.
Whether or not the president can transfer his high approval rating to congressional candidates during next week's mid-term elections remains to be seen. Farm country has voted overwhelmingly for Republican presidential candidates in recent years. Eighty percent of the farmers in our sample voted for Trump in 2016, versus only 10 percent who voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Much of Trump's strong standing in rural America could hinge on his trade and rural economic policies. For now, most farmers said financial conditions were at least the same or better than a year ago, with about one-third saying conditions were worse. But 60 percent also have some concerns with their ability to repay operating and ownership loans at year-end.
Even though conditions on the farm might not be perceived as favorable right now, farmers seem optimistic that things will get better under President Trump. Our respondents gave fairly high marks to the administration's efforts to renegotiate and rename the North American Free Trade Agreement, to renegotiate trade terms with China and to repeal federal regulations on their farms.
And when it comes to passing a new farm bill, they see the need to get it done before the end of 2018. On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being extremely important, 79 percent rated the importance of farm bill passage with a six or above.
In general, it appears that farmers and ranchers are not convinced that the Democratic party is on their side when it comes to agricultural issues — even though "making health care more affordable", a key campaign topic for Democrats – scored well.
When asked which political party relates to you and your farming interests, 65 percent said it was the GOP compared to only 9 percent who selected Democrats. But there may be some growing distaste for both parties. About 18 percent said, "none of the above" and another 6 percent endorsed independents.
Respondents were representative of commercial farmers with gross farm incomes of at least $50,000. Farm size was evenly distributed. About 28 percent farm 500 acres or less, 23 percent till between 500 and 1,000 acres, 20 percent have 1,000 to 2,000 acres, and 28 percent farm more than 2,000 acres.