Based on numbers gathered by Hart and his colleagues at ISU, exports in the cattle industry actually grew in 2018, unlike many other agricultural commodities. Beef rose about 2 percent and was largely unaffected by the trade war due to supplying more beef to other areas of Southeast Asia and Korea. About 16 percent more product was moved overall to other areas outside of China.
“We do things big enough and strong enough that we have to sell outside our borders,” Hart said. “That’s why I want to remind you why exports are such a big deal. The tariffs are rearranging the trade flows,” Hart said. “We just have to figure out where the product goes following these new trade rules.”
Hart was also quoted in a Feb. 5th Vox story about Trump's trade agenda.
Agriculture has incredibly low barriers to trade, making the industry an easy target for retaliatory tariffs. And there’s also a political incentive: Many farmers are Republicans and Trump supporters.
Agriculture is “one of the few areas that the US has a surplus; it makes sense they would target that,” Chad Hart, an economist and crops market analyst at Iowa State University, told Vox in July 2018. “It makes sense politically, because you are looking at Republican leadership—and farmers do tend to vote more Republican.”