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White House plans $12B bailout for farmers caught in Trump’s trade war

Author: Washington Examiner - July 24, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

iStock-836549414-1280x686.jpg
tariffsA Colorado farmer uses a disc harrow to roll corn stubble back into the soil for nutrients for next season. (Getty Images/iStock)

WASHINGTON — The White House is set to announce $12 billion in emergency aid to U.S. farms to help them cope with the retaliatory tariffs other countries have imposed in response to President Trump’s tariffs on imports from China, Europe, and others.

The aid will be provided through the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which provides price supports for farmers, and is expected to be announced sometime Tuesday. Other reports about the plan said the administration will also launch a trade promotion program to help farmers who are having more trouble exporting in light of the ongoing trade war.

The assistance will be broad-based.

“We are hearing that it will include more than soybeans. While soybeans have been among the hardest hit sectors, the impacts of tariffs on farmers and ranchers is wide and deep across the board,” said an agriculture industry source.

On July 6, China placed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. goods including soybeans, pork and chicken, among other items. And that retaliation could expand, as Trump has said he’s prepared to impose tariffs on every single good the U.S. imports from China to fight back against China’s trade practices.

The administration has long hinted that it would step in to protect farmers should its conflicts with trading partners require it, though Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had previously said that the administration hoped to find new markets for the products should tariffs depress sales.

Many Colorado farmers and ranchers depend on robust foreighn trade, with beef being the state’s No. 1 export.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday showed little enthusiasm for the plan, but none said they would try to block the proposal.

“So, you create a policy that causes people to need to be on welfare and then you provide the welfare,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said when asked about the aid package. “It would be much better to just reverse the policy that’s creating this.”

GOP senators argued it would be better for Trump to end the trade war by eliminating the new U.S. tariffs that prompted the retaliation.

“I appreciate the fact that they realize farmers are being hurt by this, but taxpayers are going to be asked to write checks for farms in lieu of trade policy that actually opens up more markets for farmers,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the GOP conference leader.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the emergency aid package did not win applause in a closed-door Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday. “I think the agriculture community has made it clear,” Roberts told reporters. “They much prefer trade rather than aid.”

Another reliable Trump supporter, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was also critical of the tariffs, but said he supports the aid.

“To do this, it’s punishing farmers,” Inhofe said of the tariffs. “My personal feeling is just the farmers. They are the ones that are getting hit the hardest on the individual basis.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., suggested other industries hurt by the trade war should also receive emergency aid including the seafood and energy industries, which are prominent in Alaska.

“Farmer are hit, but others are hit by these tariffs as well,” Murkowski said. “Where do you draw that line?”

Republicans have grown increasingly impatient with the trade conflicts, which would presumably end when Trump works out new trade agreements with the other countries. But those deals have not materialized, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a frequent Trump critic, told reporters Tuesday.

“It’s not happening,” Flake said, arguing that agricultural markets are shifting, perhaps permanently, in a way that will cause U.S. industries to permanently lose markets to sell products. “Once you lose those markets or become unreliable, you’ve lost those markets forever. That’s a concern a lot of people have.”

Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner