Trump offers agriculture assistance package as temporary relief for farmers

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Virginia Farm Bureau

A recently announced agricultural assistance package to help farmers caught in the crossfire of a tariff war is a welcome relief.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will authorize up to $12 billion for programs to help farmers who are affected by President Trump’s trade tariffs.

According to USDA, the funding is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods.

This “will provide a welcome measure of temporary relief to our farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the financial effects of the trade war,” noted American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “This should help many of our farmers and ranchers weather the rough road ahead and assist in their dealings with their financial institutions.”

USDA will use its Market Facilitation Program to provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. Payments are expected to be available by Labor Day.

“I think this is a gesture to acknowledge that Trump realizes the trade war is hurting farmers, many of whom voted for him,” remarked Jeremy Moyer, president of the Amelia County Farm Bureau. As a dairy farmer, Moyer said he will apply for the USDA help because “any additional income would be helpful.”

In addition to commodity payments, USDA said it would implement a food purchase and distribution program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase the unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs. Additionally, the Foreign Agriculture Service will assist in developing new export markets for U.S. farm products.

“We are grateful for the assistance, but it’s critically important to find a solution to this situation,” noted Wilmer Stoneman, director of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “If these trade issues are not settled soon, many of our trading partners, especially China, can—and will—find other sources. If that occurs, long-term damage will be done.”

Tariffs are taxes on imports, meant to protect domestic businesses and put foreign competitors at a disadvantage. The taxes affect U.S. businesses and consumers when they have to pay more for imported products.

The Trump administration levied tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods in a dispute over Beijing’s high-tech industrial policies. China has retaliated with duties on U.S. soybeans and pork. Trump has placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, arguing that they pose a threat to U.S. national security.