News that China has imposed tariffs on American exports, including wine, fruits, and nuts, adds an ironic dimension to the monster that is Trump in the Valley. Valley farmers voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, and are now facing consequences they should have realized but didn’t.
The farmers who used to brag about feeding the nation have almost unanimously converted to almonds, an export crop that has brought billions of dollars to the San Joaquin Valley, but leaves Valley residents vulnerable to exactly the kind of trade war Donald Trump is promoting.
The entire Valley economy has become dependent on what amounts to a monoculture, and what isn’t almonds is usually grapes. Now there are tariffs on both. What if the tariff became a boycott? This is what the vulgar among us call, “Being had by the short hairs,” a condition for which the President of the United States keeps finding ever new contexts.
But no one should expect Valley farmers to admit Donald Trump could possibly be the source of problems. Could a growing scarcity of farm labor be attributed to Trump’s punitive policies on immigration? Never. Could crippling tariffs on food products be attributed to Trump’s bottomless ignorance of trade and economics? Impossible.
Valley Republicans from congress on down to supervisors, mayors, city councilpersons, and school board members won’t admit the catastrophe that is Trump, at least not until after the November mid-term elections, and maybe not even after that. Faced with the prospect of public admission they’ve been had, most anyone prefers a studied silence.
And when you’ve been hustled by a low-brow, trash-talking con man whose credentials include membership in the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, it’s not something you want to brag about anyway.
Trump was okay as long as he was bashing, “crooked Hillary,” and promising to take health care away from poor people. And, deep down, too many of today’s Americans think liars and cheaters—presidential candidates included—are okay as long as they’re on our side.
A president who considers the list of seven deadly sins an instruction manual and defines treason as a failure to aid and abet in looting the nation’s treasure is perfectly acceptable until he starts hurting the bottom line—but then he’s already doing that to farmers as far away as Iowa. Some Iowans fear that Trump will bring on a crisis comparable to the 1980s, when almost 10,000 farmers went out of business.
Now, Valley farmers are facing a trade war that could easily escalate into an out-and-out boycott. The delicious irony here is that when it comes to trade and immigration, Trump is simply following through on campaign promises Valley farmers didn’t really believe—after all, why would anyone believe a confirmed liar?
Trump’s punitive Republican platform was never in danger locally as long as it only punished the Valley’s poor and middle-class residents. Now that it threatens wealthy farmers, the cruel joke is on them—they’re in danger of crippling the entire Valley economy because they voted for a president they never expected to keep his word.
About The Author
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.