Monday, April 23, 2018

Despite Raids and Tariffs, California Farmers Still Back Trump

Well, it's the Central Valley. You'd think they'd still back Trump, over the diabolical Democrats. Sheesh.

At LAT, "Raids and tariffs? We'll take our lumps, say California farmers":

You might assume walnut grower Mike Poindexter would be regretting his vote for Donald Trump.

Since the inauguration, immigration officials have raided his Selma, Calif., office and China has slapped tariffs on his walnuts to retaliate against President Trump’s protection of steel, aluminum and manufacturing.

But you’d be dead wrong. Like many other farmers in the rural and conservative San Joaquin Valley, Poindexter, 46, is holding as steadfast as his trees.

“It’s not about sticking through thick and thin,” he said. “What is our other option? In California, they’re not willing to back [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein because she’s not liberal enough. They don’t have anyone who’s palatable to us.”

So, if Trump thinks a trade war will improve the market for U.S. goods, so be it, Poindexter figures. “You know what? The Cold War affected us, too,” he said. “It’s not going to be free to win this war, but it may be worth it. I don’t think you’ll have farmers go out and vote for Democrats over tariffs.”

Poindexter’s stoicism echoes across the farms of the San Joaquin Valley, where rural and suburban voters strongly supported Trump and where they regularly send Republicans to the House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield is in his sixth term, and fellow Republican Devin Nunes, farther north in Tulare, is in his seventh.

“If I’ve gotta take a few bullets getting caught up in the cross-fire, but after four years or eight years — however long he spends in office — we’re on a better trajectory as a country, then it’s all parred up,” said Matt Fisher, a fourth-generation citrus grower in Arvin, near Bakersfield. “I did my part, so to speak.”

Jeff Bortolussi grows half a dozen fruit crops at the eastern edge of Kingsburg, where he contributed to his precinct’s 70% tally for Trump.

He lives in the house where he grew up, and eagerly invites a visitor on a driving tour around a mile-square box of country roads to show off the spring crop: peaches and nectarines the size of a baby’s fist, almond and walnuts still too small to see, reedy blueberry bushes, leafy grape vines and trees pregnant with apples, pomegranates, clementines, persimmons and figs.

It’s that kind of diversity — California grows more than 200 crops — that could soften the impact of tariffs on the state. And it’s what differentiates California’s $45-billion agriculture industry from frustrated farmers in the Midwest, who heavily depend on a soy crop that faces tariffs of 25%. (A tariff raises the price for Chinese importers, making the U.S. crop less competitive.)

Bortolussi is as patient about politics as he is with his crops.

“A lot of this stuff needs to play out,” he said. “I think a lot of it is posturing, and his way of communicating, his ‘art of the deal.’ We really don’t know what’s going on.”

Even almonds, California’s second-largest agricultural export to China, may not suffer from tariffs as much as first thought, Bortolussi says. “The almond crop this year is going to be a little off, because it got a little freeze,” he said. “So, if the tariffs are going to affect almonds, this may be the year when it will have less effect.”

Last year, California sold $1.1 billion worth of nuts — almonds, walnuts and pistachios — to China, its third-largest foreign customer, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture. China also bought more than $240 million in fresh citrus and table grapes from California in 2016, according to the department's data...