In the midst of an escalating trade fight with China which has caused financial pain for many American farmers, the Trump Administration announced on Thursday that $16 billion in trade relief payments would be given to farm producers starting this summer, to help farmers deal with economic impacts of foreign retaliation for U.S. tariffs.
"The plan we are announcing today ensures farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The $16 billion would be in addition to $12 billion in trade relief offered last year by the President to U.S. farmers, who have endured lost markets, lower commodity prices, and financial losses as a result of China and other countries retaliating against tariffs authorized by President Trump.
Perdue said it would be better to have a trade agreement with China to remove the need for these trade payments, but such an agreement does not seem to be on the horizon.
"We would love for China to come to the table at any time," Perdue said, adding that President Trump will meet with the Chinese Premier in June.
"It's really in China's court," Perdue added.
USDA officials said the Trump administration would provide $16 billion farmers affected by tariffs. Market Facilitation Payments will be a single rate per county rather than per commodity like last time. First payments will go out in July or August.— Agri-Pulse Communications (@agripulse) May 23, 2019
The funding for the latest farm bailout would come through the Commodity Credit Corporation, but Perdue and other USDA officials said the increase in revenues from tariffs would offset the cost.
"The President feels very strongly that the tariff revenue is going to be used to support his program, which will come back out and replenish the CCC," Secretary Perdue said.
Those tariff duties are not paid by China - but rather by companies in the United States importing items from the Chinese, as those businesses can either eat the extra import costs, or pass them on to American consumers.
Democrats in Congress have grabbed on to the issue of rising costs for consumers in criticizing the President's trade policies - even though many Democrats do support the idea of being much more tough on Beijing over trade matters.
According to leading economists, the Administration's tariffs will cost the average family more than $500 a year. According to @USTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, this is not a “significant cost on American families.”— Rep. Cindy Axne (@RepCindyAxne) May 22, 2019
To hardworking Iowa families, $500 is significant. pic.twitter.com/Mqh3m8j9vC
Caught in the middle are farmers, who have been more readily - and publicly - voicing their concerns in recent months with the President's trade policies.
"The Farm Bureau believes in fair trade," said American Farm Bureau Federal chief Zippy Duval. "Eliminating more tariffs and other trade barriers is critical to achieving that goal.”
A recent poll by the Indiana Farm Bureau found 72 percent of farmers surveyed in that state felt a 'negative impact on commodity prices' because of the current trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
Farm County is also mainly Republican - and the continuing pressure on farmers has filtered through in recent polling.
.@JeffFlock fr @FoxBusiness visits w/farmer @LRohrscheib in Fairmount, Illinois to discuss a survey that @FoxBusiness conducted w/ @ILFarmBureau members which says farmers are losing confidence in the president's ability to resolve the tradewar w/China: https://t.co/bCelDU8oqp … pic.twitter.com/2oknYSJUGT— Illinois Farm Bureau (@ILFarmBureau) May 22, 2019
Here's how American farmers and ranchers are suffering from the ongoing trade disputes between the U.S. and China. https://t.co/0ZWZJSNcPs— American Farm Bureau (@FarmBureau) May 23, 2019
The collateral damage for U.S. farmers could increase even more in coming months if there's no deal between the U.S. and China.
President Trump has already threatened to raise tariffs on an additional $325 billion in imports from China, which could draw even more trade retaliation from Beijing - with U.S. agriculture being the most obvious target.