The Trump administration announced a $12 billion aid package in late July aimed at helping farmers hurt by the administration’s ongoing trade war with China and others, including traditional allies in the European Union and ongoing, unsettled North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Mexico and Canada. The government help includes possible direct payments to growers.
The money comes after farmers have felt the economic pressure wrought by retaliatory tariffs placed on agriculture by China and other nations the Trump administration has penalized with tariffs on imports. In early August, China ratcheted up the tariff war by imposing tariffs of between 5 and 25 percent on nearly all of the $130 billion in goods in imports from the United States.
Farm Bureau issued a statement regarding the package, expressing appreciation for the president’s recognition that farmers are currently under stress because of the unsteady trade landscape. However, Farm Bureau stressed that “trade not aid” is what farmers are seeking.
“Farmers would much prefer to be able to do what they do best — that is to grow a product and sell it at a fair price around the world,” Joe Cornely, Ohio Farm Bureau senior director of corporate communications, told The Columbus Dispatch in July.
When announcing the $12 billion aid package, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue said the decision to make government money available to farmers to combat the hardline trade policies “are a firm statement that other nations cannot bully our agricultural producers to force the United States to cave in.”
Cornely noted that the markets that are being affected have been cultivated over several years and may not be easy to replace.
“We need to not only consider the consequences immediately, but over a longer time,” said Jack Irvin, OFBF senior director of state and national policy. “We spent many years building these markets, and they need to know we will continue to be a reliable supplier.”
At press time there were still questions surrounding where the money was coming from and exactly how and when the aid would make its way into the hands of farmers.
In other national news, the farm bill remains in limbo as negotiations to reconcile the separate Senate and House bills are planned to begin again in September.