"This isn't just numbers on a sheet or percentage of trade or dollar value," said Michael Petefish, a 33-year old Trump supporter and fifth generation farmer in southern Minnesota.
Standing on the farm he will likely run for the next 40 years, he added, "This is multi-generational American families, your base, that you are now squarely putting into financial peril."
Petefish is one of the thousands of farmers who have seen the price of their crops tank in the face of escalating trade rhetoric between the United States and China. Growers in the area talk of their farms losing over $200,000 in value as commodity prices slump, all while the back and forth between the two countries has played out like a game of chicken, with each side trying to one up each other by raising the size of tariffs they plan to implement on each other.
After Trump announced that he planned to implement tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods last week, the Chinese Commerce Ministry accused the United States of starting a trade war and said it will retaliate. Trump and his top aides have said they are implementing the tariffs to protect American intellectual property, but farmers like those here in southern Minnesota who are now under the threat of Chinese tariffs feel like collateral damage in a fight full of unintended consequences.
"I cringe," Dale Stevermer, a soybean farmer and pork producer, said when asked about President Donald Trump's tit-for-tat trade spat with China. "When a tariff even gets talked about, it makes both the buyers and the sellers jumpy. It's going to impact my bottom line, it's going to impact my business livelihood, and, to an extent, it becomes a mental outlook."
Standing on the Easton, Minnesota farm he was raised on, near the apple tree where he met his wife and the fields where he made a living for himself, Stevermer took a long pause.
"It's hard not to have some down days," he said, looking out on his 200 acres of soybeans.
Dale Stevermer wouldn't say who he voted for in 2016, but his wife, Lori, said she voted Republican.
Rural voters knew exactly what they were voting for, and exactly who they were voting for. As I keep saying, best case scenario for every single person who voted for Donald Trump was that his overt racism, sexism, and vulgarity wasn't a dealbreaker and was an acceptable "character flaw" they were willing to overlook, so they rolled the dice.
Eventually you come up snake eyes and lose.
The political irony for people like Petefish and others in southern Minnesota is that they helped propel Trump to the White House, backing the businessman-turned-politician because, in part, they felt he understood their needs better than Hillary Clinton. Trump only lost Minnesota by 2% in 2016, coming close to becoming the first Republican to win it since Richard Nixon.
Farmers in the area are not ready to say they regret their vote for Trump but are closely watching how they will fare in the intensifying trade fight as they consider whether to break with the Republican Party in November.
"We have got about a month and a half where we can play with this thing and then after that, these prices have to be corrected, so we urge the administration to do what it has to do and do it quickly," said Tom Slunecka, the CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Association. "If we get into harvest with prices like they are, it will decimate much of farm country."
And it is not just Minnesota that will be impacted. States like Iowa and Illinois, both of which feature top House races this November, produce millions of bushels every year.
"Right now, people are overcome with risk," said Dan Feehan, the Democrat vying to represent southern Minnesota in Congress come November. "Those who chose to vote for the President two years ago did so because they felt anxiety about what their future and have seen things get worse."
And yet, we're still pretending it was "economic anxiety". I'm gonna say losing 200 grand off the value of your farm because of this guy might be much more of an economic hit than anything Clinton would have done, even worst-case, but of course the economics were never the real reason people perfectly okay with racism chose to vote for the racist.
When Mike and Dale and their wives and kids and parents and neighbors and friends all vote for Republicans in 2018 and 2020, with Hillary Clinton nowhere near being on a ballot, will we still be using that "economic anxiety" line?