During her campaign for U.S. Senate, McCaskill hosted Q and A session at Palmyra farm

Claire McCaskill made a campaign stop in Palmyra on Monday, talking with local farmers about how the ongoing trade war impacted them and stressing her stance that the United States must find another way to negotiate the global situation.

McCaskill visited Lowell Schaschtsiek’s farm to talk about concerns affecting farmers in the area in addition to this season’s drought. Throughout the discussion, many farmers told her that declining prices and tenuous contracts for soybeans and other commodities topped the lists of concerns. McCaskill said the trade war needed to end, stressing that “China cheaters” who steal American intellectual property and other resources must be stopped through following up on judgements like successful enforcement of biodiesel dumping violations and seeking new enforcement efforts.

McCaskill said that President Donald Trump’s plan to provide $12 million in aid would end up “picking winners and losers” with who would receive the funding The money would be borrowed from China, she pointed out — the nation is the largest bondholder for the U.S.

She said she worked with fellow agriculture proponents in the past to help set up the current crop insurance-based system. Although many Missouri farmers she has talked with are willing to work through the pain of free-falling prices and access to fewer markets see if things improve, McCaskill said that the proposed aid was not the answer.

“Most farmers don’t want a bailout, they want a market,” she said.

When McCaskill asked some of the area farmers about how their situations looked, Joe Maxwell, an Audrain County farmer, said that he would be making decisions on which crops he grew and livestock he raised based on government action, instead of the commodities he would normally choose.

“If you’re not farming to the program, you’re out of business,” he said. “And that’s a sad day.”

Local farmer Eddie Mitchell said he was “worried” about declining grain prices in the wake of the tariffs placed on items such as soybeans, mentioning that he had a contract with Smithfield, which is now Chinese-owned. Another farmer chimed in that Cargill was purchased by JBS, which is also based out of China.

Essentially, the farmers said, Chinese owners can place tariffs on their own products. And farmers said they are feeling the direct impact of declining prices and changing markets in many commodities.

“When you have all these consolidations, it’s dangerous, especially for the little guy who’s trying to be independent,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill said she hopes to protect the markets that have been built over the past decade, noting that each market is unique. She said it is “totally realistic” to sell soybeans to European Union markets to make up for lost Chinese sales, because the United States infrastructure only moves beans west.

Farmers are “by nature optimistic and risk takers by heart,” dealing with factors like weather that are out of their control, McCaskill said, and she hopes that they are right that the markets will bounce back.

But she said the current tariffs have already affected one of Missouri’s largest export markets with soybeans, and things are already changing on a global scale.

“I know right now Brazil is moving in to take [China’s] place, and China is paying their own farmers extra to grow more beans, and they’re not going to go back on that with the flip of a switch,” she said. “So there is going to be some long-term pain, especially if you look at the input costs, as you begin to consider the aluminum and steel tariffs also.”

McCaskill said senators on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the effects of a trade war on farmers, ranchers and dairymen and how to protect them. McCaskill vowed to bring concerns about health care, the upcoming Farm Bill and other issues back to Washington for discussion. She said she preferred a “scalpel” approach toward China cheaters with more enforcement for rule-breaking rather than a “2x4” to the markets that could negatively impact them for years to come.

“We’ve got to get out of this trade war,” she said. “We’ve got to get out of a situation where we are closing markets to Missouri farmers. We can feed the world. We are that good.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com