Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trump administration announces $12 billion plan to help farmers hurt by tariffs



By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The administration of President Donald Trump on July 24 announced a $12 billion plan to protect American farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods.

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it “will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.”

According to the release, “President Trump directed (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny) Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the administration works on free, fair and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally.”

The $12 billion “is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods,” the news release stated. “These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.”

The plan does not require congressional approval.

“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 stated in the press release. “The president promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong.”

The Trump administration in recent months has slapped tens of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs, which are taxes on imports, on goods from some of this nation’s key markets for agricultural exports, including China, Canada, Mexico and European Union nations.

The tariffs are in response to what the administration claims are unfair trading practices.

Those nations have responded with their own tariffs on U.S. goods and many of them are focused on U.S. farm commodities, including milk, pork, beef, wheat, nuts, fruits, soybeans and sorghum.

The USDA plan to assist farmers impacted by the tariffs includes providing incremental payments to producers of soybeans, corn, wheat, dairy, sorghum, cotton, and hogs. To do that, the agency will utilize the Market Facilitation Program authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act, which is administered by the Farm Service Agency.

“This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad,” the USDA news release stated.

USDA will also use the CCC to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase an unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as beef, milk, fruits, nuts, rice, pork and legumes, and distribute them to food banks and other nutrition programs.

The CCC will also be used to assist the private sector in developing new export markets for farm products.

On July 24, before the plan was unveiled, Trump tweeted: “Tariffs are the greatest! Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on trade negotiates a fair trade deal, or it gets hit with tariffs. It’s as simple as that….”

U.S. agricultural goods have borne the brunt of the retaliatory tariffs, the USDA news release stated.

“USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations,” Perdue stated. “The programs we are announcing today help ensure our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and innovate to meet the demand.”

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation favors talks over tariffs, said IFBF President Bryan Searle. However, Farm Bureau applauds USDA’s temporary plan to help farmers impacted by the retaliatory tariffs, he added.

“While farmers prefer trade over aid, we understand that our president is using the threat of tariffs as a way to obtain trade deals that truly are fair for American farmers and businesses,” Searle said. “We thank the president for helping ensure producers are protected while the U.S. works with its trading partners to hammer out trade agreements that truly do result in a level playing field for everyone.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the $12 billion package will “provide a welcome measure of temporary relief to our farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the financial effects of the trade war.”

“This should help many of our farmers and ranchers weather the rough road ahead and assist in their dealings with their financial institutions,” he said. “We are grateful for the administration’s recognition that farmers and ranchers needed positive news now and this will buy us some time.”

Duvall said while the announcement is substantial, the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers face in relation to lost export markets cannot be overstated.

“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,” he said.

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