Planting the Seeds of a Story With Farmers in the Midwest

“It makes me feel really good to hear Trump say farmers are important to this country,” he said. “That’s what makes me want to stick with the president.”

And while he hopes the trade fight is settled soon, he doesn’t think trade is the “silver bullet” that is going to solve farmers’ problems.

When heavy morning rains canceled the next day’s planting, I toured Countryside Cooperative’s grain elevator and storage bins, which Shane and farmers in the surrounding counties use. There, Mike Christenson, the agronomy supervisor, was dealing with the headache of getting dried fertilizer delivered since flooding had halted barge traffic in their region along the Mississippi. I drove across the river to Winona, Minn., to see the quieted grain terminals for myself.

Shane and I met up later at the Bragger home. Joe Bragger had just returned from listening to the vice president speak at what he labeled “a whistle stop” at an equipment manufacturer.

Like Shane, he was ready to support President Trump until the trade war ended, yet still believed the trade issue was only one front on which farmers were battling. “From the dairy side, it’s a distraction,” Joe said. Overproduction and drooping commodity prices, he said, are the real problems.

When Noel, his wife, announced dinner was ready, I turned off my recorder, put down my notepad and sat down with the Bragger clan and Shane on the porch looking out over a part of his farm. There were lots of stories, laughs and ice cream. A perfect evening.

The next day, I drove to the airport, dropped off my rental car and headed toward the terminal. There are only two flights that depart from Eau Claire each day, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I ran into a familiar face. It was Tuco, the dog who had sat across the aisle from me on the trip from Chicago a few days earlier. We were both headed home.

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