Billings Gazette: Tester invites Trump to Montana to talk wheat after disparaging remarks

by Tom Lutey

After President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about the wheat sales to Japan, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is inviting the president to a sit-down meeting with Montana farmers.

Tester, who is home harvesting crops over the Senate’s August recess, made the offer in a letter written to President Trump on Wednesday.

“Montana farmers rely heavily on Asian Pacific countries for trade, and Japan plays a particularly important role as the largest importer of Montana’s wheat,” Tester wrote. “This is not a market we can replace and our relationship should be celebrated, not mocked.”

Speaking at a Pennsylvania chemical plant Aug. 13, Trump said Japan only bought U.S. wheat to make America feel good. The president described Japan-U.S. trade relations as lopsided, with wheat being the only U.S. product Japan buys, which isn’t true.

“They send us thousands and thousands, millions of cars, we send them wheat. Wheat. That’s not a good deal,” Trump said. “And they don’t even want our wheat. They do it because they want us to at least feel that we’re OK, you know, they do it to make us feel good.”

Politifact rated the president’s quote mostly false; Trump had the car numbers mostly right, but misrepresented the U.S. wheat trade with Japan and the business between the two countries overall. Farmers and politicians in Montana responded negatively. Tester said a visit to talk with the state’s farmers would help the president understand what’s at stake in a state Trump won easily.

“I would be happy to host you on my family farm or tour a different operation at your request. I believe direct conversations with Montana agriculture producers would benefit everyone. I stand ready to assist you in visiting my fellow farmers.”

The United States and Japan expect to announce a new bilateral trade agreement this fall.