Trump's farmer bailout begins. USDA spends $1.2 billion to buy surplus food

The government is starting to pay farmers that have been hurt by the fallout of President Donald Trump's wid...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 9:30 PM

The government is starting to pay farmers that have been hurt by the fallout of President Donald Trump's widening trade feuds.

The USDA announced Monday that it would release an initial $4.7 billion payment, and buy $1.2 billion of surplus food.

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The move is part of a larger, $12 billion aid program that was announced in July. Since then, American farmers have been waiting for details about how the money would be disbursed.

Many countries have slapped tariffs on American commodities in retaliation to the Trump administration's move to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from much of the world, as well as on many goods from China.

The initial $4.7 billion of direct payments will go to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers. Farmers can begin requesting the aid on September 4, the US Department of Agriculture said.

Most of that aid has been set aside for farmers who grow soybeans. Their prices reached historic lows after China imposed a tariff on the legume.

The government will purchase up to $1.2 billion of commodities that have been targeted by retaliatory tariffs and distribute the surplus food to federal nutrition assistance programs for children and low-income Americans.

It will buy about $559 million of pork, $93 million of apples, $85 million of dairy products, and $85 million of pistachios.

The amount to be purchased was based on an analysis of the economic damage caused by tariffs from other countries, the USDA said.

"Early on, the president instructed me, as secretary of agriculture, to make sure our farmers did not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs,"Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement Monday.

He said the initial round of aid "buys time for the president to strike long-lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy."

Some farmers have said the financial assistance isn't good enough and many are still worried about the affect the tariffs will have on their bottom lines.

The details released this week "fell short of addressing the losses dairy producers are experiencing," said Jim Mulhern, the president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

The $127 million set aside for direct payments to dairy farmers would cover less than 10% of their losses, Mulhern said in a statement.

The National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers also said the aid was insufficient.

"NCGA has understood from the beginning that this aid package would neither make farmers whole nor offset long-term erosion of export markets. But, even with lowered expectations, it is disappointing that this plan does not consider the extent of the damage done to corn farmers," said North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes in a statement.

Tami Luhby contributed reporting.

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