WASHINGTON — When Sen. Sherrod Brown spoke to a room full of Ohio Farm Bureau farmers Wednesday, one farmer joked that the Ohio Democrat was brave to face a room populated with the traditionally conservative group.

But the group ultimately never specifically asked about one of the issues over which they may be most at odds with Brown, though it was much talked about. The farmers fear that newly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will spark a trade war that could affect the state’s agricultural exports. One in seven jobs in the state is connected to agriculture, and the industry’s success, they say, is directly tied to their ability to export their products.

"What most people don’t know is we’re the first to take a hit when other countries react to a trade tariff decision," said Lane Osswald, a farmer from Eldorado, on the western edge of the state. China, he said, could have a particular impact: One-third of all soybeans produced in the state go to China.

Osswald fears that countries affected by the tariffs could opt to import soybeans, corn and wheat from other nations instead. "We are not the only game in town," he said.

For the farm bureau, it’s a challenging line to walk: Many in the group supported President Donald Trump in 2016, but they’re nonetheless concerned about Trump’s tariffs decision. They want U.S. steel to succeed, they say, but "any time trade is disrupted, we are at risk," Osswald said.

Still, many used the fly-in to Washington to focus on what’s in front of them: a pending farm bill, due to start moving in the next few weeks, and environmental rules that aim to protect the land but sometimes make production a bit more difficult.

For his part, Brown has publicly applauded the decision to impose tariffs.

He said he would fight any retaliation other countries might try to impose for the tariffs, adding that "I don’t subscribe to the theory that trade agreements play off auto workers against farmers."

"These are trade enforcement actions," he said. "And we’ve done that throughout our history."

Those sentiments were echoed by Robert Suver, a Clark County soybean farmer who said he believes that Trump imposed the tariffs to gain leverage in negotiations with Mexico and Canada over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

He said the U.S. is losing China’s market share on soybeans to parts of South America, but the world’s population leader still needs the U.S. product. He said he doesn’t think China will reciprocate.

"Agriculture is always vulnerable, and we’ve got to be aware," he said. "But I don’t think they’re going to come out and shut down the imports."