Farmers from small Missouri town talk tariffs, trade war with Canadian diplomat

HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. -- A Canadian diplomat visited a small metro town Monday night to tackle a very big topic: how to patch up the suddenly strained relations between the United States and Canada.

The small town of Higginsville, Missouri, likely isn't what comes to mind when you think about a debate on international trade wars.

But Canada in the No. 1 customer for Missouri exports, and talk of new tariffs have a lot of people in Higginsville -- and the rest of the state -- talking.

"This is a big deal," U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said.

The small town of about 5,000 people is precisely the place Cleaver picked to bring the Canadian consul general to talk about the high stakes of trade wars.

"And I know the president said sometimes trade wars are good; trade wars are never good," Cleaver said.

John Cruickshank, Canadian consul general for the Midwest, told a crowd of Missouri growers and manufacturers how much the Show-Me State Has to lose in trade disruptions with Canada.

John Cruickshank, Canadian consul general for the Midwest

Cruickshank said Missouri enjoys a $2 billion trade surplus with Canada.

"The Canadian customer buys more then your next five customers combined," he said.

Cleaver urged the crowd to write to the White House and make the case to President Donald Trump that imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum could wind up hurting farming communities like Higginsville.

Lifelong residents Joseph and Julie Mintner said they plan to do just that.

"Encourage him to think about the moves that he`s making because they`re backfiring from what he promised," Julie Mintner said.

"The more Tariffs that we impose on people, the less jobs we`re going to have for our people," Joseph Mintner said.

Others at the event, like Ronnie Russell with the Missouri Soybeans Association, avoided criticizing Trump`s policies but agreed farming is hard enough -- even in a small town like Higginsville -- without complicating international trade.

"We need Canada. We need Mexico, and we need a worldwide economy to have markets for the products we produce, particularly soybeans," Russell said.

After the meeting in Higginsville, Cleaver and his Canadian guest met with business leaders at a working dinner in Kansas City.