March 21, 2019 / 8:20 PM / 8 months ago

Breakingviews - U.S. floods add new twists to 2020 elections

A flooded parcel of land along the Platte River is pictured in this aerial photograph at La Platte, south of Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Drone Base

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Breakingviews) - Recent U.S. floods are adding new twists to the 2020 elections. Several midwestern states have suffered some of their worst deluges on record, raising more climate-change fears. That could influence voters in Iowa, a key state in the U.S. presidential-election process. And the floods’ financial toll may prompt underwater farmers to dump President Donald Trump.

Iowa hosts the first contests for those running for the White House. It’s unclear whether Trump will face a serious challenge from a fellow Republican, but Democratic hopefuls have descended on the state since the start of the year. And climate change is now one of the top three issues that Democratic Iowa caucus-goers wanted to hear about, according to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Meanwhile, the inundation has killed livestock and hurt stored crops from the Hawkeye state to Missouri to Nebraska, where officials estimated the cost to the agricultural sector could be at least $1 billion. Iowa may eventually have to spend billions of dollars to repair broken levees.

Farmers were already hurting because of retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and elsewhere. These have caused overseas sales of soybeans and other goods to plummet and contributed to a 19 percent increase in farm bankruptcy filings in the Midwest last year compared to 2017, according to the American Farm Bureau.

They are at a further disadvantage this year because of the implementation of the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Because Trump pulled the United States out of it, American beef and other products face higher tariffs in Japan and other countries than their rivals.

Trump has regularly bragged about his support among farmers. He has also made getting China to buy more agricultural goods a centerpiece of trade talks with Beijing. An Agriculture Department official said in February that the government has doled out $7.7 billion in aid to offset the trade pain. But three farmers told Breakingviews they have received only about $1,000 to $1,500 each so far.

The 2018 midterm elections showed cracks in the Republican party’s strong support in the region. Kansas elected a Democratic governor in a major upset, while the GOP lost several long-held congressional districts in Iowa. The effects of the recent floods could sprout more electoral surprises next year.

Breakingviews

Reuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.


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