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Agriculture Department to pay $4.7 billion to farmers growing soybeans, cotton and other products hit by tariffs in Trump administration’s hardline trade war with China, announcing first batch payments from a $12 billion government assistance program.
Starting next Tuesday, the agency will accept applications from farmers who produce corn, cotton, dairy, pork, sorghum, soybeans and wheat – products targeted by China’s retaliatory tariffs, after the United States imposed a 25% tax on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. imports.
Most of the money – more than $3.6 billion – will go to soybean producers. China was the top export market for U.S. soybeans, buying nearly a third of all soybeans grown in the United States in 2017.
“Our hard-working, most productive farmers in the world, and we aim to protect them,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, announcing the payment plan.
Soybean prices have fallen this summer – a process that began even before the United States and China clashed with tariffs in early July.
“This will be a real boost for our growers, who have seen soybean prices drop about $2.00 a bushel, or 20%” since June, American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer said. .
Helped the most, Heisdorffer added, will be farmers who did not have contracts in place before their harvest and who face a potential shortfall in their ability to pay for next year’s planting season.
Another group of farmers, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, welcomed news of the financial aid, even as they urged President Trump to end the trade war.
“Farmers are suffering right now, and this aid will provide a temporary reprieve,” said MSGA President Michael Petefish. “Unfortunately, if this trade war continues for much longer, this aid package will feel less like a band-aid and more a reminder of the trade relationships we have lost and need to rebuild.”
The government payout was heavily criticized when it was announced last month, with farmers and Trump’s fellow Republicans saying the administration was paying billions in response to a problem it created.
As NPR’s Brian Naylor reported in July, congressional lawmakers weren’t required to vote on the billion-dollar farm relief package — a vote that could have had strong negative fallout with the US election. mid-terms looming in November.
Instead, Naylor reported, “officials say they will use a Depression-era program, the Commodity Credit Corporation, to get money from the U.S. Treasury and they won’t need to request the funds from Congress.”
The main assistance program within the Commodity Credit Corporation is called the Market Facilitation Program. It is intended for farmers whose average adjusted gross income over the past three years was less than $900,000.
Other relief programs include the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, which will purchase surpluses from reduced trade, and the Trade Promotion Program, to seek new export markets for American farmers.
As he announced details of the aid package, Perdue said the federal effort “buys time for the president to secure lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy.”