GAO to review Trump administration's $28 billion farm bailout

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is opening a review into the Trump administration’s $28 billion bailout for farmers affected by the U.S. trade wars. 

The investigation, first reported by The New York Times, was initially requested by Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOn The Money: GAO to investigate Trump aid for farmers | Bloomberg calls for bolstering Dodd-Frank | Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes GAO launches investigation into Trump aid for farmers Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE (D-Mich.), who has accused the administration of allocating more funds to southern states that voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE and favoring large and foreign companies over local farms. 

The subsidies are anticipated to end this year after the administration struck an initial deal with China to end Washington and Beijing’s trade war. 

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The program was initiated in 2018 as a $12 billion effort to help farmers who were hit with retaliatory tariffs from China and others involved in the trade wars, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico. The funds rose to $28 billion as the U.S. trade war with China worsened.

The program allowed farmers making under $900,000 a year to receive funds if they produced one of the products that faced taxation from other countries. The government also agreed to purchase certain targeted products, including apples, oranges and pork. 

However, critics of the bailout say the program uses faulty formulas to determine allocated payments for certain goods and that it offers money to corporate farms.

“It’s clear that the Trump administration’s trade assistance payments pick winners and losers rather than help the farmers who have been hit the hardest by this president’s trade policies,” Stabenow told The Hill. 

The GAO is a nonpartisan congressional investigatory body that audits government programs. It alerted Stabenow’s office of the investigation in a letter Thursday.

Correction Feb. 15: This story was updated to reflect that $28 billion in bailout subsidies is being reviewed