Trump offering farmers extra $4.9 billion in trade relief
The Trump administration announced Monday a second and “final” round of trade aid for farmers and ranchers burned by retaliatory tariffs, including roughly $4.9 billion in additional direct payments for certain commodity producers.
The second batch of trade relief payments is President Donald Trump’s latest effort to stem the pain inflicted on U.S. agricultural producers by his trade feuds. But just as with the first round, commodity groups are complaining that the aid is not nearly enough to offset the damage from retaliatory duties.
“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” Trump tweeted. “I have authorized Secretary [Sonny] Perdue to implement the 2nd round of Market Facilitation Payments. Our economy is stronger than ever — we stand with our Farmers!”
The move brings the total direct payments to farmers to nearly $9.6 billion. More than 75 percent of the direct trade relief is devoted to soybean growers, who have been slammed by the drop in demand from China, the largest foreign market for U.S. soy.
The payouts will apply to the second half of 2018 production for producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, cotton, shelled almonds, sweet cherries, dairy and pork, according to USDA.
The payment rates for each farm good included in the program were unchanged from the first round of direct aid, announced in August. Industry groups have said the reimbursement rates are too low to make up for the drop in commodity prices stemming in part from Trump’s trade war. Corn growers, for example, will continue to receive only one cent per bushel.
“One cent per bushel is woefully inadequate to even begin to cover the losses being felt by corn farmers,” Lynn Chrisp, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said in a statement. “USDA did not take into account the reality that many of our farmers are facing.”
After Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, other countries including allies like Canada and Mexico have also imposed retaliatory duties on American agricultural goods, like soybeans and pork, lowering demand and driving down prices.
“While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” Perdue said in a statement. “This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”
USDA in July authorized up to $12 billion in assistance to producers. The additional trade relief announced Monday follows a $6.3 billion batch that USDA unveiled in August, which included $4.7 billion in direct payments, $1.2 billion in commodity purchases and $200 million in market development efforts. The first round of direct aid has yet to be fully paid out.
China last week made its first purchases of U.S. soybeans in months, as the trade tension eased slightly amid a temporary truce reached by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 gathering in Buenos Aires.
The short-term ceasefire raised questions about whether additional relief for farmers and ranchers would still be necessary. Perdue had planned to announce the second round of direct aid around Dec. 3, but a standoff between USDA and the White House budget shop delayed the release.
Perdue last week blamed OMB Director Mick Mulvaney — Trump’s incoming acting chief of staff — for trying to “hold on to money” that was still needed for trade relief.
Producers only need to sign up once to be eligible for both rounds of payments, USDA said. The sign-up period ends Jan. 15, but producers have until May to certify their 2018 production.
The department is not planning additional trade relief for 2019. Congress, however, could step in to provide further support for farmers and ranchers if the trade pain continues into next year.
House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the incoming chairman, has warned Democratic leaders that additional aid might be needed in 2019 or 2020.