WASHINGTON – More financial assistance is on the way for farmers and ranchers hurt by retaliation from foreign governments in trade disputes with the United States.
President Donald Trump said Monday he has authorized Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to launch the second and final round of payments from a $12 billion aid package he promised last July to farmers slammed by tariffs.
“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” Trump announced on Twitter. “I have authorized Secretary Perdue to implement the 2nd round of Market Facilitation Payments. Our economy is stronger than ever – we stand with our Farmers!”
The program provides payments to almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry and wheat producers who have lost much of their export sales because of retaliatory actions by foreign governments, particularly China.
“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,” Perdue said in a statement. “This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”
In September, the Agriculture Department announced the initial $4.7 billion in assistance payments. Farmers who already have applied, completed their harvest, and certified their 2018 production will be able to receive additional payments for the second half of their 2018 production.
The first and second payments are estimated to total $9.5 billion.
The program has come under fire from some agricultural sectors for being too small to offset the impact of a trade war with China. The National Milk Producers Federation sent a letter to the White House this fall arguing losses from retaliatory tariffs would exceed $1 billion this year.
An association representing soybean farmers, among the hardest hit by the trade dispute, called on the administration earlier this month to begin the “critically important” second round of aid. The American Soybean Association said the impact from Chinese tariffs had vastly exceeded Department of Agriculture estimates.
Davie Stephens, the association’s president, said it is “improbable that sales of U.S. soybeans to China can be sustained” unless China removes a 25 percent tariff on soybeans. That barrier remains in place despite a friendly meeting earlier this month between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Argentina.