The media and legal storms stirring around President Trump are impacting the economic future of West Kentucky.
Recently Rep. James Comer, KY R-Tompkinsville 1st Congressional District spoke to various Rotary and civic clubs in the Jackson Purchase Counties of far Western Kentucky. His main topic for these gatherings was about the current trade war with China. He descried it as "a battle that America must participate in."
"I don't like participating in it," he said. "If you ask me, if I support or oppose these tariffs, my answer is that I oppose them."
However, "I will say that at the rate we've been going in losing manufacturing in rural America, I think something has to be done, now. And I feel confident that at the end of the day, we're going be victorious and this short-term pain will lead to long term gain."
As a recent Commissioner of Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Comer fully understands how this short term pain is wiping out the traditional international China soybean markets. Some West Kentucky farms have lost upward of 70-80% of their cash flow from the collapse of the soy bean market.
In a statement to geo-politics of this farm struggle, Comer said, "More suburban areas and places with private sector investments or those with universities were able to adapt to the 'new world order' but rural America got left behind."
In 1980, Kentucky manufacturing jobs located within the eight counties of the Jackson purchase numbered at 35,000 form 38 factories. In 2019 those figures were 3,000 from 6 factories.
"I think if we're going to rebuild rural America, we have to do it with manufacturing," he said. "If we don't have some fair trade with China, then I don't think there's any future for manufacturing in rural America."
Comer is working within the House of Representatives to secure passage of the trade deal with Mexico and Canada as a replacement to losing the China trade for his farmers. This United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement (MSMCA) is poised for passage.
Yet, with each passing day, actions of the White House to maintain a strong position against China is putting at risk any new deal with Mexico or Canada.
At the same time, planned new trade tariffs with the European Union countries, and disruptions from the oil fields of the Middle East have cast the Untied States in a "Fortress America" foreign policy position. This new nationalism policy is allowing Trump to play to his base of hard core voters.
Farming is the major industry being practiced in the Jackson Purchase and right now this attempt to bring China to its knees over trade has the potential of destroying what is left of farming and rural communities in the region. There will not be much "economic gain" if "short term economic pain" fractures 100 years of agricultural industry.
Being a Republican congressman, Comer must somehow "carry water" for Trump and become a major regional defender of the President's increasingly weird public policies.
Comer must consider just how far to march to a Trump world as his own political and economic world becomes shattered by geo-politics of a New World Order.