As the Trump administration’s trade war with China continues, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Monday (Dec. 17) that the federal government has launched the second and final round of trade mitigation payments aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to trade levies imposed by foreign countries in response to U.S. trade tariffs.
“President Donald Trump reaffirmed his support for American farmers and ranchers and made good on his promise, authorizing the second round of payments to be made in short order. 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,” said Perdue. This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”
The $12 billion bailout was announced in July. It was necessitated by the ongoing trade war with China in which billions of tariffs between the two nations have been levied. China is the top soybean importer in the world and the country has reportedly taken steps to reduce the number of soybeans its importing this year. Imports to the country have dropped 10% to 85 million tons, according to World Grain. There has been a 97% drop in the amount of soybeans sold directly from U.S. producers to China, the USDA has reported.
The bailout has been roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, have been highly critical of the plan, according to Politico.
“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to grant waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” Johnson said. “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”
Thune added, “Taxpayers are going to be asked to initial checks to farmers in lieu of having trade policy that actually opens and expands more markets. There isn’t anything about this that anybody should like.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, has supported Trump’s bailout since it was announced. He was pleased that the second round of relief has been doled, and he hopes it will compel the Chinese to strike a fairer trade deal.
“I am pleased to see the President not only deliver such a quick response to the concerns I voiced last week, but to see him continue to stand with rural America. Like any other industry, farmers are harmed by unfair foreign trade practices, but are also challenged by risks inherent to agriculture and a struggling farm economy,” Crawford said.
The Trump administration announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage caused by the ongoing trade war. At the time, President Trump directed Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to help protect agricultural producers, while U.S. trade negotiators continue to hold talks with China and other U.S. trade partners to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally.
In September, USDA initiated three programs to aid American agriculture in sustaining the short-term damages associated with the trade disputes and securing long-term, stable export markets. Producers need only sign-up once for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to be eligible for the first and second payments. The MFP sign-up period opened in September and runs through January 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at this link.
Producers must complete an application by Jan. 15, 2019 but have until May 1, 2019 to certify their 2018 production. The MFP provides payments to almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers who have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports.