Comer voices support for tariffs that have hurt farmers

U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, speaks at a town hall forum Thursday in the Allen County Fiscal Courtroom.

SCOTTSVILLE – U.S. Rep. James Comer’s roots in farming run deeper than those of the crops that dot the acreage in the 35-county 1st Congressional District that he represents, and yet the Tompkinsville Republican didn’t back down Thursday from his support of President Donald Trump’s tariffs that have taken a toll on those who make their living from raising crops and livestock.

Crops, particularly soybeans, have taken a beating from the president’s trade war with China, a big market for soybeans. Selling for $12 a bushel just a few years ago, soybeans are now going for around $8.50, with little hope for an increase.

“I speak to farmers often,” said Comer, who was Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner from 2012 to 2016. “They don’t like being on the front lines in a trade war, but they understand that we need to level the playing field.”

Comer, speaking at a town hall forum held in the Allen County Fiscal Courtroom in Scottsville, told the crowd of 40 or so local residents that Trump’s hard line with China will pay dividends in the long run.

“China doesn’t play by the same rules as we do,” said Comer, who represents a district that stretches from the state’s far western counties to Simpson and Allen counties in southcentral Kentucky. “They have a huge competitive advantage.

“The president is trying to create a situation where we have a level playing field with China. I feel like we’re making progress, but it’s going to be a rough road, especially for agriculture and the automobile industry. We’ll have a little more short-term pain in order to get the longer-term gain.”

Comer, who narrowly lost to Matt Bevin in the 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary election before winning a seat in Congress the next year, gave a congressional update Thursday and fielded questions from those who came out. He expressed support for other Trump and GOP stances.

He voted against a pair of gun control bills that passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives earlier this year and defended those votes Thursday.

“I support the Second Amendment (spelling out the right to keep and bear arms),” Comer said. “I don’t think the government should come in and tell businesses if they can or can’t sell firearms.”

Comer acknowledged that calls for legislative action to address gun violence have increased in the wake of last month’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, but he isn’t ready to vote for bills that would impinge on the rights of gun owners or sellers.

“It breaks my heart every time there’s a mass shooting,” he said. “I visited Marshall County (where a high school student used a handgun to kill two other students in 2018) several times, and I never saw anyone in Marshall County say we have to have gun control. They realize that the shooter killed those children, not the gun.”

Comer does admit that action is needed.

“What I think will eventually pass is a better database to identify people who shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “People who are mentally ill, for example.”

The congressman also expressed support for Trump’s efforts to build a wall to protect the country’s southern border from people entering illegally.

“I support border security,” he said. “We’re going to secure that border one way or another.”

Comer pointed to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as a positive accomplishment of Trump and Republicans, saying it has boosted the economy, but he lamented the ballooning federal debt that has now gone past $22 trillion.

His solution to the increasing debt involves not raising taxes, but shrinking the size of government.

“I think government is too big,” he said. “I think we have some programs in government that are obsolete. We’re wasting too much money. Members of both parties are not serious about reducing the debt.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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