Kasich blasts Trump trade policy hurting farmers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's Republican governor on Wednesday helped open the Ohio State Fair by blasting President Donald Trump's tariff battles, which have left some farmers feeling less than festive amid the funnel cakes and butter sculptures.

Gov. John Kasich said Trump's imposition of tariffs on products from such allies as Canada under national security grounds was "completely absurd' and insulting to countries that have stood with the United States in wartime. He said now Trump is resorting to "farm welfare" when farmers "don't' want aid, they want trade."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday announced a $12 billion, three-part plan to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury to pay farmers hurt by the trade battles with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. China is the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans and one of the largest importers of U.S. pork, key products for farmers in a state where agriculture remains a major economic driver.

Kasich, a frequent Trump critic and 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination, said that will only compound tariff damage by worsening U.S. debt.

"This really a terrible, terrible policy," Kasich told reporters as the 12-day fair began. "There are more and more people speaking out about it and I think that people in my party are beginning to get fed up."

Ohio's Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, said farmers he's talked with said "they'd rather have the markets ... what we really want is the ability to sell our products."

Portman, in Washington, told Ohio reporters by phone Tuesday afternoon that he understands the need to get tougher on China, but the former U.S. trade representative in the George W. Bush administration said they are too many fronts in the current trade battles.

"My concern is ... we have too many balls in the air right now," Portman said, saying the Trump administration needs "to resolve some of these issues so that our farmers and our workers in Ohio have more certainty about the future."

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Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.

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