The Trump administration has promised $12 billion aid to farmers hurt by the president’s trade wars.
While agricultural subsidies have a decades-long history in the United States, the latest authorization is unique. Unlike the billions meted out each year to dairy farmers and commercial crop growers, Trump’s package was cobbled together by the White House rather than Congress.
Back in March of 2018, the president downplayed today’s predicament, tweeting that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” But as Express News notes, trade wars can also be complex.
The United States is among the world’s major exporters of agricultural produce and commodities. China has, in modern times, been among America’s chief customers. Rural Texans, for instance, ship tons of cotton and sorghum to Asia each year. They’re now suffering the consequences of increased tariffs and newly-created trade restrictions.
“The programs we’re announcing today are a firm statement that other nations cannot bully our agricultural producers to force the United States to cave in,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Tuesday.
Perdue, reports Express News¸ was announcing a relief program designed to aid farmers harmed by retaliatory tariffs. Key export markets for producers of pork, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum have are all under threat from Trump’s trade war.
“This is a short-term solution that will give President Trump and his administration time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and all sectors of the American economy,” Perdue said.
The program will provide payments to ‘soybean, cotton, sorghum, corn, wheat, dairy and hog farmers.’ It’ll also authorize the government to purchase other products for distribution to food banks and welfare programs. Meanwhile, the Foreign Agriculture Service will collaborate with the ‘private sector’ to identify nations willing to import American goods.
“The restrictions we face in critical markets such as Mexico and China—our two top export markets by volume last year—have placed American pig farmers and their families in dire financial straits,” said Jim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council. “We thank the president for taking immediate action.”
OK @POTUS – you created this mess with your trade war and now you are going to spend $12 billion to placate the farmers that voted for you. Whatever happened to restoring Puerto Rico with more than 4,000 dead? Maybe pay for the funerals. https://t.co/fdvKjYdgVc
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) July 24, 2018
CNN and Express News both indicate that politicians from both parties have criticized the endeavor.
Republicans have likened the subsidies to welfare, claiming that American farmers would rather “win by feeding the world” than get paid to “lose.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said tariffs aren’t going to “make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”
And U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) made use of Twitter to point out the president’s apparent political hypocrisy.
“OK @POTUS – you created this mess with your trade war and now you are going to spend $12 billion to placate the farmers that voted for you,” Speier wrote.
Trade groups and industry advocates had mixed reactions. Some, like Perdue, praised the president’s initiative in making sure that farmers don’t go under.
Most, regardless of political inclination, said they hoped the trade war would be resolved quickly.
“The $12 billion package of agricultural assistance announced today by the administration will provide a welcome measure of temporary relief to our farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the financial effects of the trade war,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “This announcement is substantial, but we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets … We will continue to push for a swift and sure end to the trade war and the tariffs impacting American agriculture.”