ELLIS — Sen. Jerry Moran said he told President Trump on Thursday that farmers need more markets, not fewer, right now.
Trump last month placed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum with the intention of protecting U.S. industries from unfair competition and to bolster national security.
China responded with tariffs on U.S. products such as cars, chemicals and soybeans.
Kansas farmers produced 4.39 billion bushels of soybeans in 2017, a record year that increased 2 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"There is a need for the United States to deal with China," Moran said Friday after a tour of Ellis High School. "They do not play by the rules. They steal our secrets, they take our technology, they attack us in cybersecurity ways. Those, in my view, are things that ought to be much more targeted than just tariffs," he said.
Moran said he would rather see the U.S. deal with China through a policy of isolation.
"We can isolate China if we engage with other countries," he said, noting the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement would allow that.
The U.S. withdrew from TPP under the Trump administration, although the president has indicated he's reconsidering, and Trump has threatened to abandon NAFTA if it can't be negotiated to better serve U.S. interests.
Moran said he thinks Trump was receptive to his message, giving direction to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to determine how to re-engage those discussions.
Moran said it is especially important to open new markets when agriculture is facing difficulties of drought conditions and low prices.
"We can produce more than Americans consume, and the only way we can continue to be farming communities like Ellis and the surrounding area is when we have access to world markets," he said.
Moran said he also tried to dissuade Trump from creating an assistance program to help farmers in the growing trade war with China.
"Our farmers don't want another check from the government, they want to earn their living in the market," Moran said.
"My point would be don't create a problem through lack of trade and then figure out how to spend money to solve the problem, just don't create the problem in the first place."
Moran toured Ellis High on Friday to learn more about its programs after accepting an invitation to be the commencement speaker on May 12.