WASHINGTON — Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on July 24 announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will take several actions to minimize damage to farmers’ incomes resulting from escalating trade rows with China, the European Union, Mexico, Canada and other nations.
President Trump had directed Mr. Perdue to develop a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers’ livelihood while the administration seeks to secure trade concessions from key trading partners.
Mr. Perdue said the U.S.D.A. will authorize up to $12 billion in farmer assistance initiatives to offset an estimated $11 billion in trade expected to be lost because of retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. agricultural goods.
“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,” Mr. Perdue said. “The president promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher, and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong.
“Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes to illegal retaliatory tariffs,” Mr. Perdue said. “U.S.D.A. will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations. The programs we are announcing today help ensure our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and innovate to meet the demand.”
The U.S.D.A. indicated the retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States have affected several commodities, including field crops like soybeans and sorghum, livestock products like milk and pork, and many fruits, nuts and other specialty crops. The U.S.D.A. indicated that in addition to facing higher tariffs, American goods shipped overseas were being slowed from reaching market by unusually strict or cumbersome entry procedures, which may affect the quality and marketability of perishable crops.
Mr. Perdue outlined how the U.S.D.A. will assist producers. First, he said, the Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (C.C.C.) Charter Act and administered by the Farm Service Agency, will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. Mr. Perdue said this support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
Additionally, the U.S.D.A. will use the C.C.C. Charter Act and other authorities to implement a food purchase and distribution program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surpluses of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
And third, the C.C.C. will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for U.S. farm products.
Casey Guernsey, speaking on behalf of Americans for Farmers and Families, a food and agriculture industry group that has been critical of the administration’s confrontational trade policy, said, “Rather than accepting retaliatory tariffs and seeking to offset them with federal assistance, America’s producers believe the administration should look toward solutions that will enable them to export their homegrown goods to critical markets around the globe.
“My family got into farming to sell beef, not to accept government assistance. While we need to hold our trading partners to account and ensure fair deals are reached, our government must also pursue long-term and sustainable solutions.”
John Heisdorffer, president of the American Soybean Association and a soybean grower from Keota, Iowa, said, “The A.S.A. has consistently advised the administration that the best way to reduce our nation’s trade deficit is by increasing exports, including of agricultural products. Since the administration has decided to use tariffs to address trade concerns with China, and China has retaliated, farmers don’t have time to wait to see how this trade war turns out.
“U.S. soybean producers want to see President Trump succeed in meeting his trade campaign goals of achieving better trade deals and greater market access. And we appreciate that he has recognized our loss in exports and lower prices and provided some immediate relief. However, producers cannot weather sustained trade disruptions.”