Emergency aid announced for farmers
By KRISTIN DANLEY-GREINER
The federal government intends to provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers impacted by President Trump’s trade war in the hopes of softening the blow. The president hoped the announcement of the federal ag package would assuage producers’ concerns.
But most farmers are furious.
The National Farmers Union estimates corn, wheat and soybean farmers in the U.S., have lost an estimated $13 billion so far in the trade war. The aid package includes direct payments to farmers to mitigate lower prices resulting from the tariffs; direct commodity purchases by USDA; and a program similar in purpose to the current Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) programs.
U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, took to Twitter to express his concerns. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to put a Band-aid on a self-inflicted wound. This bailout compounds bad policy with more bad policy.”
Trump continues to Tweet about the trade war, stating that “Tariffs are the greatest!”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said payments should begin this fall. He has listened to Iowans sharing their concerns at his county meetings and heard firsthand how devastating the trade war has been on them.
“The impact reaches lenders and landowners, factory workers who earn a living making tractors, implement dealers, and seed and fertilizer suppliers who sell goods and services to Iowa’s 80,000-plus farmers. The local tax base and merchants on Main Street also take a hit when farm commodity prices and exports drop. The bottom line is clear. Lost exports means lost income. Farmers need market access with our trade partners to stay prosperous, pay their bills, put next year’s crop in the ground, expand and upgrade their livestock operations and grow vitality in local communities,” Grassley said during a press conference.
As the second largest farm exporting state in the country, Iowans are being hit awfully hard, he said.
“As I predicted, escalating trade tensions underway between the United States and key trade partners, including China and Mexico, are extracting a heavy toll on American agriculture, especially soybean, corn and pork producers. Every third row of soybeans grown in Iowa is exported. Shutting off one-third of a farmer’s revenue stream is not sustainable,” Grassley said.
“As a lifelong family farmer, I share the overwhelming sentiments of farmers in Iowa who want to earn their livelihoods through the marketplace. Grain and livestock producers want prosperity from their productivity. That means having the ability to compete for every sale in every market,” he said. “The farm safety net functions as a safety valve to weather natural market cycles and mitigate natural disasters. No amount of money from the Federal Treasury can offset long-term prosperity and opportunity from the free marketplace.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig stated that while the federal aid package recognizes the market challenges farmers are facing, it only provides temporary assistance.
“What we need is certainty when it comes to our trade relationships. We continue to urge the administration for the swift resolution of our trade negotiations with China and our NAFTA trading partners, as well as pursuing new trade agreements. As I travel the state I continue to hear Iowa farmers want more trade, not aid,” he said.
Iowa Soybean Association President Bill Shipley, who farmers near Nodaway, said that the short-term solution is not enough and the best remedy to low prices is resuming trade with established export markets.
“While the administration’s effort to mitigate the short-term impact of tariffs on exports and prices through payments to farmers and commodity purchases provides some relief, it is not the solution. We strongly encourage the White House to immediately develop and embark on a long-term plan that replaces reduced exports and improves the competitiveness of U.S. soybeans,” Shipley stated. “Net farm income is down almost 50 percent since 2013. Now is not the time for continued uncertainty for U.S. agriculture and the millions of jobs it directly impacts. A swift resolution grows more critical each day as farmers prepare for harvest and meetings with lenders, suppliers and land owners to make plans for next year.”
The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation sided with its national parent organization noting that the federal aid package may mitigate the financial impact of the trade war, but it is not enough.
“The bottom line is that farmers prefer trade over aid. As the cost of running our farms continues to rise and global demand for Iowa’s agricultural products continues to grow, farmers prefer access to global markets for their products over temporary aid,” Hill stated. “We continue to encourage the administration to end this trade war, and the clear preference for farmers is negotiating new trade agreements where we can grow demand for American-grown food, fiber and energy and have free access to markets, unencumbered by tariffs.”
National Pork Producers Association President Jim Heimerl who raises pigs in Ohio, thanked the president for taking action. National Corn Growers Association president Kevin Skunes who farms in North Dakota expressed appreciation for the federal aid package crafted by the administration.
“We know the package won’t make farmers whole but look forward to working with USDA on the details and implementation of this plan,” Skunes noted. “NCGA’s grower members are confronting their fifth consecutive year of declining farm incomes while facing high levels of uncertainty due to ongoing trade disputes and disruptions in the ethanol markets. Corn farmers prefer to rely on markets, not an aid package, for their livelihoods.
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