Trump approves second round of aid payments for trade war stricken farmers
President Donald Trump on Monday said he authorized a second round of payments from an aid package of up to $12 billion designed to help farmers stung by the U.S. trade war with China, billing it as a promise kept to a key constituency.
“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” Trump said in a Twitter post.
“I have authorized Secretary Perdue to implement the 2nd round of Market Facilitation Payments,” he said, referring to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The USDA in July authorized the aid program for farmers after China imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. The agency had outlined the first round of payments in late August, and farmers were eagerly awaiting the second round.
An announcement on the second tranche had been expected in early December but was delayed by a tug of war on the issue between the USDA and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which questioned the need for the additional payments given growing expectations that China would resume buying U.S. agriculture products.
Farmers hailed Trump’s decision to proceed with the payments. “They are a significant help as we continue to deal with low prices,” said Kirk Leeds, chief executive of the Iowa Soybean Association. “It has been a tough year for U.S. soybean farmers.”
The USDA expects direct payments to farmers under the program to total $9.567 billion, with around $7.3 billion for soybean farmers, the hardest hit from the trade war. The USDA program includes an additional $1.2 billion in food purchases, and around $200 million to develop foreign markets, bringing the total estimated aid to just below $11 billion.
Corn farmers have complained that the payments for their crop have been absurdly small at around a penny per bushel relative to soy, which is amounts to around $1.65 per bushel. But the USDA did not change the rate.