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Missouri Farmers and Metal Workers At Odds Over Tariff Wars

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By Kenneth White

Missouri exported internationally $2 billion worth of agricultural goods last year according to federal data. Soybeans, an import that China has now levied 25% duties on in the form of retaliatory tariffs, are a large part of Missouri’s exports. Farms and families, whose meager incomes have already been undermined by a glut of soybeans whose futures on the market are at an all time low, are now likely to be challenged to keep their farms. About half of all U.S. soybeans were exported last year, according to USDA data. More than one-quarter of the crop, worth about $12.3 billion, went to China.

“People don’t want to talk about trade,” said Justin Rone, a farmer with deep family roots in soybeans and cotton. “It’s safer to talk about how best to grow your crop, keep your head down and pray.”

Meanwhile in the same Missouri county where 70% of registered voters went for Trump in the last election, a new smelter (Magnitude 7 Metals) will open on the grounds of the Noranda Aluminum plant that closed in 2016. The closure was due to a number of badly timed events, including plunging global aluminum prices, and all but nine of the workers at the plant lost their jobs. For a smelter employee it’s hard work seeking but not finding something with a comparable wage – some found roles as farm hands to make ends meet. Now those workers are likely headed back to the smelter due to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on aluminum from overseas.

Testifying before a Commerce Department public hearing, Chief Executive Officer Bob Prusak of Magnitude 7 Metals was seen on camera saying that the tariffs were “nothing short of critical to getting us up and running”.

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