Agriculture and Trade Principles

After his appointment to the Senate in 2009, the first committee Michael Bennet requested to serve on was the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Over the last decade, Bennet has led efforts to create certainty for farmers, open up new export markets, boost rural economies, write and pass two Farm Bills, and most recently push back on the Trump Administration’s reckless trade policies.

The following principles, facts, and policies will guide the Bennet Administration’s approach to agriculture and trade to secure a stronger future for farmers, businesses, workers, and consumers and restore America’s economic leadership around the world.


One way or another, globalization will shape the 21st century economy.

As president, Bennet will use trade agreements to shape global practices to intentionally benefit American farmers, businesses, workers, and consumers.

Although trade has been an overall boon to the American economy, it has come with costs to certain regions.

For too long, we’ve failed to acknowledge and adequately address the costs to vulnerable communities and workers.

Democrats cannot be an anti-trade party.

Simply offering a list of grievances will not improve global trade practices or create opportunity for working Americans. We need to lead the work of lifting up standards for trade around the world and opening up export opportunities for American farmers, businesses, and workers. In this way, we can better distribute the benefits of trade.

The agricultural workers who drive America’s rural economy merit top consideration in future trade agreements.

Roughly half the soy and wheat grown in this country, and a quarter of the pork produced in Iowa, is sold in overseas markets. Finding new, fast-growing overseas markets to sell products into is vital for the growth of family farmers and ranchers. It is also vital to the 1.2 million jobs sustained by agricultural exports, including jobs in sales, manufacturing, and transportation in rural areas across the country. However, President Trump’s trade war has cost U.S. GDP $134 billion to date, exposed farmers and ranchers to retaliation, and sacrificed overseas markets in Asia to foreign competitors like Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia. As president, Bennet will work with our allies to expand agricultural opportunities overseas—not limit them or sacrifice them to other producers.

Trade agreements that strengthen economic bonds with allies and trading partners can lift global standards on workers’ rights, environmental protection, food safety, and fair business practices.

Those rising standards ensure American workers and businesses can compete on a level playing field. Any trade agreement Bennet signs as president will include high and enforceable labor and environmental standards, as well as standards to crack down on unfair competition.


Trade has lifted American growth and incomes.

From 1950 to 2016, trade added $2.1 trillion to the American economy—an average of about $18,000 per household and $7,000 per person. Those averages are not evenly distributed, and some Americans have been harmed by trade. We must address this dislocation, but we cannot ignore the benefits trade brings to our economy.

95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, and the fastest-growing developing markets are overseas.

American farmers, businesses, and workers benefit from being able to sell into these fast-growing markets.

Export-driven jobs pay above-average wages.

Jobs supported by exports are estimated to pay up to 18% more than non-export jobs. 

Farmers and ranchers need to grow exports to grow their businesses.

Net farm incomes are down over 30% since 2013, driven in part by President Trump’s reckless trade war and failure to secure the certainty that our farmers and ranchers need to grow their businesses. In 2018, American producers exported $140 billion of American-made agricultural products, but since the start of the Trump Administration, American agricultural exports have effectively flatlined.

Nearly half of our imports make American farms, ranches, and businesses more competitive.

45% of American imports are inputs into other products that are made in America, helping our farms, ranches, and businesses stay competitive in a global economy. Not only have farmers and ranchers been exposed to retaliation on these products, but the cost of imports like fertilizer and farm equipment have risen too.

The other half of imports lower the cost of living, especially for the poorest Americans.

Reductions in tariffs and expansions of trade have lowered the cost of consumer goods in particular, increasing the purchasing power of all Americans but especially lower-income Americans. On the other hand, increases in tariffs reduce Americans’ incomes and disproportionately harm the lowest-income Americans. Tariff increases also harm growth and productivity and lead to more unemployment and higher inequality.

For too long, the economy-wide benefits of increased trade resulted in ignoring the communities and workers that have been disproportionately harmed by trade.

Some communities and workers—particularly the nearly 70% without a four-year college degree and regions with high shares of manufacturing employment—have been disproportionately harmed by trade in recent decades.

Increased trade is a development tool.

Trade with developing countries can lift billions of people out of deep poverty and build a global middle class that will continue to grow as a market for Made-in-America products and services. Expanding trade also raises labor standards and reduces pollution as other countries import cleaner technologies and improve their labor practices.

Surveys of Americans find strong, bipartisan support for increasing trade.

That support has grown as Americans have seen the consequences of President Trump’s reckless and nonstrategic trade war, with three-quarters of Independents and Democrats and a majority of Republicans registering as pro-trade in a recent survey.



The Bennet Administration will:

End Trump’s brinkmanship that harms our farmers, businesses, workers, and consumers.

The Bennet Administration will end President Trump’s reckless trade war that has cost our farmers and ranchers money, wasted their time, and closed the door to overseas markets.

Retaliatory tariffs have crushed soybean and pork exports to China, increased costs for farmers buying fertilizer and equipment, and shut down access to overseas markets—allowing foreign competitors like Brazil to gain a permanent foothold to sell products like soybeans in the region. Agricultural exports are projected to decline by $4.5 billion in 2019, in part due to Trump’s trade war. Rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs contributed to a 16% decrease in farm incomes between 2017 and 2018.

Tariffs also cost American households more than $400 in 2018, and are projected to cost double that amount in 2019—more than offsetting the small benefits from the Trump tax cuts for the typical family.

The trade war has recklessly damaged relationships with our allies, undermining efforts to coordinate pressure against China and other bad actors.

Rather than slapping tariffs on our allies and exposing our farmers and ranchers to retaliation, the Bennet Administration will do the hard work of building global coalitions to pressure bad actors while maintaining and opening up new agriculture markets.

Create a new Trade Opportunity Fund to support workers and communities as part of trade agreements.

Trade agreements should be accompanied by targeted support for workers and communities to ensure they benefit from the agreement, especially workers without a four-year college degree. Every trade agreement Bennet signs as president will set aside 20% of the benefits, as projected by the International Trade Commission (ITC), to create a Trade Opportunity Fund. These funds will help workers take advantage of the opportunities from that trade agreement and provide community-level and individual support targeted to places that need it most.

The Bennet Administration will empower labor unions, state and local leaders, small businesses, farmers, and trade economists to make recommendations for how best to channel the Trade Opportunity Fund to take advantage of the trade agreement. Together, we will provide targeted assistance to support workers and communities who could face increased competition due to the agreement. 

Marshal our allies and trading partners to collectively push back on China’s mercantilist trading practices.

China competes unfairly in ways that disadvantage American farmers, businesses, workers, and consumers. We should not cede to China writing the rules for trade in the Asia-Pacific region as President Trump has done. We should work with partners to set the rules of the road on our terms. Russia, Iran, and North Korea stand to benefit from China’s approach to trade, but many more countries share our interests. The only way to apply enough pressure on China to change its behavior is to work in concert with our allies and trading partners. Instead, President Trump has chosen a go-it-alone strategy, in which he launched a reckless and nonstrategic trade war—using our farmers and ranchers as collateral—and alienated our allies and other countries who should be making common cause with the United States to crack down on China’s unfair practices.

As president, Bennet will marshal our allies and trading partners around the world to collectively push back on China’s mercantilist trading practices. This includes cracking down on China’s unfair subsidies of their domestic producers and state-owned enterprises; theft of intellectual property; inappropriate and coercive barriers to selling or operating in China; and economic espionage.

Provide more support for workers and communities.

Even outside the context of trade agreements, we need to do much more to support workers attaining the skills they need to earn a living wage, not just the minimum wage. Bennet’s Plan to Reward Hard Work invests $500 billion in the 70% of Americans without a four-year college degree; prevents and fights recessions, which hurt workers living paycheck to paycheck the most; and helps communities facing an economic transition—whether driven by trade or for any other reason. These are all essential policies for the United States to effectively take advantage of trade.

Address regional, local, and industry—not just national—effects of trade.

We should focus on local and regional effects of trade and trade agreements and do much more to help communities, workers, and industries who are at risk of missing out on opportunities from increased trade. The Bennet Administration will ensure that the ITC analysis fully assesses the regional, local, and industry-level benefits and costs of a trade agreement, as opposed to just the national impact.

Include enforceable labor and environmental standards at the core of trade agreements.

The Bennet Administration will insist we include strong and enforceable labor and environment standards at the core of any trade agreement. A strong inspections regime will increase our ability to ensure other countries are abiding by their agreed-upon standards, and act on enforcement more quickly without other countries standing in the way of the dispute resolution process. These standards will lift up other countries’ practices so they cannot undercut American workers and businesses by mistreating or underpaying their workers or by shirking their obligations to a clean environment.

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