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Missouri Farm Bureau President Reacts To Trump's Aid Package For U.S. Farmers


So what does this aid package mean for U.S. farmers? To get one perspective, we reached out to Blake Hurst. He farms corn and soybeans. He's also president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. Welcome to the program.

BLAKE HURST: Welcome to you. I'm glad to be here. Thank you.

CORNISH: So before we get to today's aid package, I want to get a sense of how farmers in your area are actually doing right now. Can you describe your community and what you're hearing from people?

HURST: I farm in northwest Missouri, actually the furthest north and west county. So we're about 10 miles from the Missouri River bottom. So I guess that headline news of this spring is just tremendous, catastrophic flooding. So all of the Midwest is suffering from excess rain and delayed planning, in my immediate area, many have worse problems than that. So it's been a tough spring.

CORNISH: So into that now is this idea of more aid. Is this helpful? Is this good news considering what you're - you've been describing?

HURST: Well, it certainly is. I mean, you know, well, let me preface it by saying all of us, any farmer would much rather receive his income from a well-functioning market. But we've been faced with a market that isn't working because of trade disputes. And that has meant a tremendous drop in farm income and tremendous financial pressure to those of us who farm. So this is going to help.

CORNISH: At the end of the day, tariffs are, some argue, attacks on the U.S. consumer, right? We're the ones who end up paying for it. Is there support for how President Trump is handling the back-and-forth of China?

HURST: It's been quite interesting. So China has been a tremendous customer and rapidly growing customer for U.S. soybeans. They've been an intermittent customer for corn. Some years they're in the corn market, most years they're not. They've been no customer at all for U.S. meat - you know, pork and beef. And so what you're seeing is cattlemen are basically saying, look, they've treated us unfairly for years. We had to do something. Soybean producers saying, well, they treated us unfairly for years, but I sure do need that market.

So you're actually seeing a little bit of - really strong support for this policy amongst particularly livestock producers and fairly strong support amongst all farmers. Although I have to say the financial stress on soybean producers is maybe weakening that support somewhat. But people have been pretty patient.

CORNISH: You mentioned financial stress. What about the emotional toll that this is taking on farmers?

HURST: I was in a meeting with a friend of mine who farms here in central Missouri, where I am now. And he says, you know, he said, my family's on this farm for 116 years. He said, I don't want to be the generation that loses it. And to a farmer, that's really a - sort of a poignant, powerful statement because we all do feel, you know, many of us got our start because our grandfathers, our fathers were farmers.

And whether you find that sort of romantic or not, it's important to us. And the feeling that we have been given a responsibility to improve the farm, to keep the farm and to hand it on to our children just as our father did, it's just an ethic that is amazingly strong in farmers, many of whom are afraid that they're going to be the generation that drops the ball, in other words.

I mean, normal financial stress that any of us feel when we - when we're disabled or lose a job or any of the things - mishaps that can occur. And then add to it that sort of weight of the generations. And yeah, it's a mental health question.

CORNISH: That's Blake Hurst. He's the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. He's also a corn and soybean farmer. Thank you for speaking with us.

HURST: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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