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Video: FactChecking Trump’s Farming Claims

In this fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper reviews President Donald Trump’s false claims about the impact of trade on U.S. farmers.

In recent weeks, Trump tweeted that U.S. farmers “have been on a downward trend for 15 years,” claiming “bad (terrible) trade deals” are “destroying their businesses.” He’s wrong on both counts.

U.S. farmers have not been “on a downtrend trend for 15 years.” In fact, they “experienced a golden period during 2011 through 2014 due to strong commodity prices and robust agricultural exports,” according to a February report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Net farm income in real inflation-adjusted dollars reached a record $133.6 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A downtrend has occurred since 2013, but trade is not to blame.

“The ag sector is seeing some hard times, but it is because of lower prices and not trade,” Wallace E. Tyner, who teaches agricultural economics at Purdue University, told us. “Weather has been pretty good, production high, and prices therefore lower.” 

U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 — the third-highest amount on record. And, as it has done for decades, the U.S. agricultural sector posted an annual trade surplus of $21.3 billion in 2017, up almost 30 percent from fiscal 2016.

Chad E. Hart, an associate professor of economics and crop markets specialist at Iowa State University, described trade as a “bright spot” for an industry that has been in decline since 2013.

FactCheck.org and CNN’s “State of the Union” have been collaborating on fact-checking videos since September 2015. This video is based on two of our stories, “Trump Distorts Facts on Agricultural Trade” and “Trump’s Specious Trade Tweets.”

All of the fact-checking videos can be found on FactCheck.org.