U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced up to $12 billion in federal aid to farmers to offset the expected impact of tariffs China and other nations have imposed on U.S. agricultural products.
“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,” Perdue said in a statement.
The Agriculture Department will provide payments to soybean, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hog producers to help them manage swings in the market, according to an agency press release. The department will also buy up surplus affected commodities and work with the private sector to grow new export markets. The aid plan reportedly won’t require congressional approval.
With farm incomes expected to fall this year, farmers say they’re particularly vulnerable to market shifts caused by the escalating trade war between the U.S. and its major trading partners.
Free trade advocates lost little time in criticizing the plan.
“This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches,” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a statement.
Farm groups, while expressing gratitude for the federal funds, said that they wanted the Trump administration to also relieve trade tensions.
“This announcement is substantial, but we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets. Our emphasis continues to be on trade and restoring markets, and we will continue to push for a swift and sure end to the trade war and the tariffs impacting American agriculture,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.
Politically, the plan might help assuage the tariff concerns of voters in farm-dependent states such as Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana, where U.S. Senate seats are being contested in November. The day of the announcement, the president delivered a speech in Kansas City at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States National Convention. He didn’t announce the aid plan, but he did promise that his team was “making tremendous progress” on trade and that “farmers will be the biggest beneficiary.”
“Just be a little patient,” he said.