USDA issues last batch of aid to farmers impacted by trade war

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that farmers enrolled in a temporary program aimed at helping offset damage they may have incurred from foreign retaliatory tariffs will be receiving their final tranche of federal subsidies.

“While these agreements are welcome news, we must not forget that 2019 was a tough year for farmers as they were the tip of the spear when it came to unfair trade retaliation,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

Perdue said that the payments to farmers under the administration’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP) illustrate the president’s commitment to American producers who may have been negatively affected by his trade war with China.

“President Trump has shown time and again that he is fighting for America’s farmers and ranchers and this third tranche of 2019 MFP payments is proof. President Trump is following through on his promise to help and support farmers as he continues to fight for fair market access just like he did with China,” Perdue said.

The administration created MFP in 2018 after Trump imposed tariffs on China, which retaliated by purchasing significantly less American crops. The program was renewed in 2019.

The payments doled out this week come from a $16 billion aid package announced last year, of which $14.5 billion has been used as direct payments to farmers, according to the USDA.

In 2019, the number of farmers filing for bankruptcy hit an eight-year high, according to data released by the federal court system.

The previous MFP payment that farmers received was in November. Trump said at the time that “the smaller farms and farmers will be big beneficiaries.”

A July study by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, found that more than half of the first two payments went to bigger, wealthier farms.

In the recently signed “Phase One” trade deal with China, Beijing agreed to increase purchases of U.S. goods by $200 billion over the next two years, including $32 billion on U.S. crops.

The deal — which Trump has called the “biggest ever” — is one of the topics he is expected to touch on Tuesday evening during his State of the Union address.

However, the deal notably doesn’t include language that could prevent future trade wars. In an interview with CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump could reimpose tariffs in the event that China reneges on its commitments in the deal.

Shortly after the deal with China was reached, Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which he is also likely to tout during his address Tuesday and could potentially ease financial pressures on American farmers.

Tags Donald Trump farm subsidies Sonny Perdue Steven Mnuchin trade war

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