Sen. Tammy Baldwin shares thoughts and plans to help farmers and manufacturers impacted by tariffs

Published: Oct. 23, 2018 at 6:39 PM CDT
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The race for Wisconsin's U.S. senate seat has seen three debates in the last three weeks. Overall, stark contrasts in views and plan became apparent between democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin and republican challenger Leah Vukmir.

One topic that has not gotten much coverage in those debates is their view on how President Donald Trump handled the international tariffs imposed this summer, and how they plan to help Wisconsin farmers and manufacturers who have been affected by them.

Pres. Trump imposed billions of dollars in tariffs against several Chinese imports because he said the Chinese have unfair trading practices and that it was a matter of national security and a protection of intellectual property for American businesses. The Chinese responded with several tariffs against the United States too, hitting Wisconsin farmers and manufacturers especially hard.

"We need good trade deals, not trade wars," Sen. Baldwin told 7 Investigates. "I'm not opposed to tariffs if they're used strategically against folks who are cheating and creating an unlevel playing field."

Baldwin explained how Pres. Trump imposed tariffs got out of hand.

"It seemed to be so haphazard that he said 'I'm also going to impose them on the European Union and Canada and Mexico who are trading partners and allies.' And what did we get? We got retaliatory tariffs against cheese, against Harley Davidson... ginseng, and cranberries. It kind of seems like Wisconsin is paying a disproportionate price for Donald Trump's trade war," she said.

Baldwin admitted farmers, particularly dairy farmers have been in a rough season long before the trade war, but they have been in dire need of help as milk prices drop and supply continues to increase. More than 500 dairy farms closed in Wisconsin last year, with hundreds more expected this year.

"What our farmers need is better tools to manage the risk," said Baldwin. "So I've been fighting to beef up, no pun intended, something called the Margin Protection Program, which is a risk management tool that dairy farmers use when they're losing money because the price of milk is so low."

The Margin Protection Program is part of the Farm Bill. Her provision in that program, along with others were included in the Senate's version of the bill. Those provisions would lower insurance premiums for small and medium dairy farms by 50 and 25 percent respectively. Farmers would also would be protected more quickly because they would be able to receive insurance money at a lower margin, when milk prices drop to $9 instead of $8.

The deadline to pass the combined House and Senate Farm Bill was Sept. 30. Baldwin said she has urged the department of agriculture to extend the current Farm Bill's protections so farmers are covered until the new bill is passed.

She said helping manufacturers in Wisconsin requires a different tactic. She said her buy America policies, like the Water Infrastructure legislation the president signed Tuesday, is key.

"The trade war is happening because they're afraid that U.S. businesses might go under because of the unlevel playing field," Baldwin said. "Well, if we make a commitment that at least tax payer dollars are going to stay here at home, make sure that we have robust industries to build our infrastructure and for government procurement, then I think that's a winning strategy."

7 Investigates is working to get Leah Vukmir's response and plans to this same issue. That story is set to air Thursday on NewsChannel 7 at 6.

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