Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, celebrated President Trump’s Jan. 23, 2017, executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In a statement the following day, Fields said, “And I would just call out yesterday, the president’s decision to withdraw from the TPP. We’ve been very vocal, both as an industry and as a company, and we’ve repeatedly said that the mother of all trade barriers is currency manipulation, and TPP failed in meaningfully dealing with that, and we appreciate the president’s courage to walk away from a bad trade deal.”
Field’s comments are consistent with Ford’s longstanding position, so were not surprising. What is harder to understand is that the company appears to be ignoring the economic interests of farmers and ranchers, a significant portion of its customer base for F-150 and heavier trucks.
The F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the United States and has enjoyed that status for many years. Some 820,000 were sold last year in this country, with another 145,000 sold in Canada.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture reported slightly more than 2.1 million farms in the United States. Many of them are quite small, part-time operations. However, there are more than 500,000 commercially significant farms with sales in excess of $50,000 per year. A high percentage of farmers drive pickup trucks.
Due to relatively low commodity prices, recent years haven’t been great for farmers. Net farm income has fallen almost by half since 2013, dropping from $123.7 billion to a forecast level of $66.9 billion in 2016. Many farmers are putting off buying new machinery and equipment, as well as new pickups. The farm economy really could benefit from a boost in demand for agricultural products.
Farmers expressed dismay at the president’s decision to withdraw from TPP. An American Farm Bureau Federation study had predicted that improved access to 250 million customers in Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Brunei would raise U.S. net farm income by $4.4 billion per year, as well as adding more than 40,000 jobs to the American economy. (No estimate was made as to how many of those jobs would have been related to building more pickup trucks.)