The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday pledged up to $12 billion in farm aide, in a “one-time” action, for farmers affected by President Donald Trump’s trade war.
“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. An accompanying press release said the USDA would take “several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” (Read the full release here.) The Washington Post first reported the $12 billion plan Tuesday.
Perdue added: “Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs. USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations.”
Except it was the trade war Trump — not other world leaders — started that led to the retaliatory tariffs.
“Tariffs are the greatest!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen. Just be a little patient,” he said at a rally Tuesday around the time news of the USDA package broke.
On a conference call with reporters earlier Tuesday, Trump administration officials said the $12 billion was “one time” action.
As Jonathan Allen noted in an NBC News analysis, “Read another way, that means $12 billion for farmers in an election year — and nothing once they’ve voted.”
Agricultural industry publication IEG Policy noted Tuesday that “Officials on the call with reporters were not asked if the push to get the plan out now would make sure that benefits under the effort would start going out to farmers and ranchers ahead of the November elections, but this certainly looks like that was the effort.”
The USDA is utilizing the Commodity Credit Corporation, created in 1933, to do three things: Make direct payments to “producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs”; “purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs”; and “assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.”
But farm state politicians stress the money is little more than a Band-Aid and that, once overseas markets for American good are lost to producers in other countries, some may be lost for good.