By Mike Dorning
Add the nation’s wheat farmers to the list of groups President Donald Trump has offended.
As he complained about car imports driving up the U.S. trade deficit with Japan at an event Tuesday at a Pennsylvania factory, Trump veered into disparaging the value of the wheat the Asian nation purchases from American farmers.
“We send them wheat, wheat. That’s not a good deal,” Trump said. “And they don’t even want our wheat.”
Amplifying the point, he added that the Japanese only buy the crop “because they want us to at least feel that we’re OK. You know, they do it to make us feel good.”
The National Association of Wheat Growers, a trade association for farmers, didn’t let the insult pass.
“Mr. President, Japan is the #1 market for US wheat exports on average,” the group tweeted out Wednesday. “They don’t buy our wheat because ‘they want us to feel okay.’ They buy it because it’s the highest quality wheat in the world. That’s not fake news.”
The reaction from the growers group comes amid rising discontent among the nation’s farmers over the toll Trump’s trade war has taken on U.S. agricultural exports. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was confronted last week at a Minnesota fair by grain farmers over trade war losses, a rare public challenge from a constituency that overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016.
Japan has been the largest buyer of U.S. wheat over the past five years, averaging 2.91 million metric tons a year, just ahead of Mexico, according to U.S. Wheat Associates, the commodity’s export marketing organization. The country accounts for more than a 10th of all U.S. wheat exports.
Mike Dorning in Washington at [email protected]
Joe Sobczyk at [email protected]