Trump offers $12B in aid to farmers hit by tariffs
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday announced it would offer $12 billion in aid to farmers hindered by retaliatory tariffs imposed on U.S. grain, produce and meat exports as the Trump administration digs in for a protracted trade battle.
The department will use the emergency aid to assist and buy crops from farmers who’ve lost billions of dollars in sales from foreign buyers in the European Union, Canada, Mexico and China.
President Trump has stood behind his decision to impose tariffs on a broad array of goods despite mounting criticism, but he has promised to aid farmers harmed by the retaliatory measures.
The White House had hinted for months at an impending relief package for farmers losing business to cheaper foreign competitors unrestrained by tariffs.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the assistance plan was “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.”
“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 illegal retaliatory tariffs,” Perdue said in a statement.
American farmers have been targeted by top U.S. trading partners in response to Trump’s imposition of levies on imported aluminum, steel and Chinese goods. The EU, Canada, Mexico and China have responded with tariffs on key U.S agricultural exports like corn, soybeans, beef, poultry and apples, sinking global demand for American farm goods.
Billions of pounds of American crops and meat have reportedly sat idle in storage facilities while their producers lose money from canceled sales.
The USDA will provide direct payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs to help them cover their losses and find new markets for their goods. The department will also purchase surpluses of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk “for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs,” the USDA announced.
Trump and his aides have sought to impose further tariffs on Chinese imports and have eyed levies on foreign automobiles against the advice of lawmakers and a handful of Cabinet officials.
Republicans and Democrats panned the aid package as details of the plan first emerged and called on Trump to abandon the tariffs that necessitated the relief to farmers in the first place.
“They put in place a policy that requires our farmers to go on welfare and, you know, it’s a ridiculous policy that just needs to be reversed,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has sought to repeal Trump’s tariffs.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) argued that direct aide was not sustainable, and only helped a portion of the farmers affected by tariffs.
“There’ll never be enough money to solve the problem,” Moran said. “What happens when other countries gain our markets? Can you do $12 billion regularly? How long does this take?”
The Trump administration has defended the president’s decisions to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel, 10 percent on aluminum and 25 percent on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. Trump has said that the U.S. can’t afford to maintain its current trading terms and would be better off once the tariffs yield better trade deals.
Perdue said his department “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.”
But lawmakers in both parties, businesses groups and farmers have become increasingly frustrated with Trump as blowback from the tariffs hits the U.S. economy.
Federal Reserve officials have noted a decrease in planned business investment and expansion, and a slew of U.S. manufacturers have warned that their business could soon fail because of rising costs of raw materials and supplies.