The Trump administration’s effort to get China and other nations to play fair on trade continues to put American farmers in a financial bind, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Thursday.

 

This dilemma has touched off a second round of monetary relief for agricultural producers, $16 billion, according to the USDA announcement.

“(President Donald Trump) knew, instinctively, that our great producers would bear the brunt disproportionately of the trade disruptions with China and others,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “And he’s made it clear that what was for so long accepted by this nation as unfair is no longer acceptable.”

Sign-ups for the Market Facilitation Program will begin on Monday, July 29, and run through Friday, Dec. 6. Information on this will be handled through a USDA website, www.farmers.gov/mfp.

 

The president authorized $14.5 billion for direct payments to producers hurt by disruptions in export markets, with the rest of the allocation going to federal nutrition assistance efforts, such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program.

 

A plan in motion

 

The payments come on a per-acre basis for an array of specialty and nonspecialty crops, plus for dairy and hog producers. The “payment-eligible plantings” for the new program can’t exceed the acreage planted in 2018.

Payment rates vary by county, with the impact of trade disruption worked into the formula. In Buchanan County, for example, the payment rate is $65 per acre. 

The same in Andrew County.

 

Neighboring counties like Holt ($68) and DeKalb ($62) have different rates.

Dr. Rob Johannson, the USDA’s chief economist, said the payment program addresses the effect of retaliatory trade tariffs on American producers without impacting their decisions on farming operations.

 

“The last thing that we wanted to do was to develop a program that would essentially make producers feel that they should plant more soybeans in order to get a larger program payment,” Johannson said in the conference call.

The first payments will be made in mid- to late-August, the officials said. Market conditions and trade opportunities may change between the second and third payments, in November and January.

 

“While every American would prefer an end to unfair trade practices, the administration’s ultimate goal, this trade mitigation program underscored the department’s ability to do right for hard-working farmers while also making their nourishing products available to Americans in need,” said Brandon Lipps, acting deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.

 

Politicians at odds

 

Not everyone in Washington voiced favor with the second round of payments. Four Democratic subcommittee chairs overseeing USDA programs said the ongoing trade war hurts American agricultural interests.

 

“(Farmers) continue to tell us loudly and clearly they want fair access to global markets, not one-off handouts from the federal government,” said the joint statement by Reps. Jim Costa of California, Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, Filemon Vela of Texas and Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands.

“We are alarmed that this bailout will take valuable resources away from USDA’s implementation of programs in the 2018 Farm Bill and the recently passed disaster supplemental that help farmers in dire need.”