BILLINGS – As the trade war continues between the United States and China, some farmers at home are struggling under the financial strain of lost export markets and five years of falling commodity prices.
As a result, the Trump administration announced Thursday a second round of assistance to U.S. farmers.
The Trump administration unveiled a new $16 billion trade aid program for U.S. farmers hurt financially by the ongoing trade war with China. During remarks at the White House, the president said he’s defending American farmers from unjustified trade retaliation.
“So we will ensure our farmers get the relief they need and very, very quickly,” said Trump. “It’s a good time to be a farmer. We’re going to make sure of that. Today, I’m announcing that I’ve directed [Agriculture] Secretary [Sonny] Perdue to provide $16 billion in assistance to America’s farmers and ranchers. And it all comes from China.”
Highlights of this second trade mitigation package include $14.5 billion in direct payments to farmers based on the county-based payment rate for their planted acreage for 2019. This is to avoid planting distortions by requiring farmers to plant a crop this spring.
Perdue praised the president for supporting U.S. farmers, but Montana Grain Growers Association President Lyle Benjamin of Sunburst told MTN News farmers like him would rather have higher market prices instead of government payments.
“It’s nice the president recognizes the significant damage that’s happening as part of this,” said Benjamin. “At the end of the day, really what we want is our trade deals to open back up and our markets to flow unhindered. I think most Montana farmers would say we can get far more out of the market than we can out of a government aid package.”
Under this second trade mitigation package, the new payments will be capped at the total amount of eligible acreage a farmer planted in 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said payments could start as early as July or August.
The announcement marks the second move in the past week by the White House to soften the blow on U.S. farmers from trade-conflict impacts.
Last week, the Trump administration announced it was eliminating tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico. U.S. agriculture groups hope the move will encourage Congress to ratify the new USMCA agreement.
–Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News