President Donald Trump’s administration is going to send a portion of $12 billion directly to farmers’ pockets as a way to soothe the sting of the tariff battle he’s waging against foreign importers of American farm commodities.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the program Tuesday afternoon. Starting as early as Labor Day, the program will focus on purchasing surplus commodities in hopes to boost prices and give the food to food banks, find new markets globally to sell commodities, and provide payments directly to producers of corn, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs.
The agricultural stimulus comes amid a growing trade war Trump brought on, saying countries like China have been taking advantage of American trade agreements for years.
Perdue called the foreign tariffs illegal and retaliatory.
“It’s a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy and deal to benefit agriculture,” Perdue said.
Trump asked Purdue in April to look into mitigating the potential effects on domestic commodities if the U.S. were to impose tariffs on foreign goods.
The influx of cash, coupled with artificially inflated prices, is sure to relieve the farming community.
“We’re gonna get some help that is definitely much needed in the farm economy that’s been hurting over the last several years,” said Steve Plocher, a grain and livestock farmer in Madison County.
The payments are likely to re-ignite the debate over taxpayer-funded subsidies for America’s farmers. Farmers themselves aren’t necessarily pleased that they must take government handouts to keep their family businesses in operation.
“We’re a proud bunch,” Plocher said. “You plan to feed yourself and your family but when government throws in tariffs and things like that, the plans that you have made are skewed and you unfortunately may have to rely on a handout to help you through the situation.”
As for how much each farmer will get, the department has not released the details and say it will get finalized as part of their rulemaking process.
The program doesn’t need Congressional approval, officials said, as it will be facilitated through the Commodity Credit Corp, a depression-era agency.
The following is a statement from Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr., regarding the USDA’s aid package for farmers facing retaliatory tariffs.
“We appreciate the administration’s recognition of the damage these retaliatory tariffs have caused for Illinois farmers – and farmers across the nation. However, while we are grateful for the support from the administration, we must stress that this aid package will not make farmers whole in the face of continued trade tensions.
“The economic and marketing damage caused by these tariffs will continue as long as they’re in effect, and likely, far longer. That’s why we urge the president and the administration to continue to negotiate trade deals with our global partners, including Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union, and get back to the table with China, to work on resolving unfair trade practices that are the underlying issue.”