Montana Public Radio

Can Do: Are Montanans Paying The Cost Of U.S. Trade Wars?

Feb 10, 2020

Imagine pulling out a new board game's instructions and discovering that the normally skinny pamphlet runs thousands of pages and spells out the rules of the game from soup to nuts. That's what an international trade agreement looks like: it's comprehensive, it's years in the making, and millions of people's livelihoods depend on it.

Brigitta Miranda-Freer
Credit Courtesy of Brigitta Miranda-Freer

In fact, the structure of U.S. trade policy is so complex, even industry experts have trouble explaining it. Montana farmers and ranchers are hugely dependent on a labyrinth of international trade agreements; nearly 80% of the state's wheat, barley and pulse crops are exported.

When the U.S.--China trade war began in 2018, American taxpayers soon found themselves funding $28 billion in subsidies to U.S. farmers, to compensate for the loss of markets for their products. Still, those subsidies aren’t fully offsetting the losses to Montana grain farmers from tariffs imposed by China, the U.S.'s largest general export market for agricultural products.

This time on Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs, we’re delving into tariffs, trade, and foreign policy. How is the current situation affecting Montana imports and exports? And, more importantly, what is the effect on the daily lives of average Montanans?
 

Tino Sonora
Credit Courtesy of Tino Sonora

Joining Arnie are three guests: Brigitta Miranda-Freer, executive director of the Montana World Trade Center; Robert “Tino” Sonora, economist with the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research; and Michelle Erickson-Jones, a fourth-generation farmer from Broadview, Montana, and spokesperson for Farmers for Free Trade.
 

Thanks to Yellowstone Public Radio for assistance with this episode.

Michelle Erickson-Jones
Credit Courtesy of Michelle Erickson-Jones

Production support for “Can Do” comes from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, dedicated to investing in people to improve the quality of their lives. And from the Greater Montana Foundation, encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans. And from Blackfoot, providing communications solutions for Montana businesses. Plus opportunities like C2M Beta, an innovation lab aimed at helping startups thrive. C2Mbeta.com.