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Trump Administration Proposes $12 Billion In Aid For Farmers Hurt By Tariffs

July 24, 2018 - 4:22 pm
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- The Trump administration has proposed a $12 billion aid package for American farmers who have been hurt by recent tariffs.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the plan will help a broad number of farmers deal with the cost of "disruptive markets" as U.S. trading partners have retaliated for President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported goods.

As Bloomberg government reporter Alan Bjerga explained to WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg and Michael Wallace, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it plans to give the aid based largely on crop prices this year.

“After the harvest comes in, farmers will start signing up, so this isn’t money that’s going to be going out immediately,” he said.

There are multiple parts of the program, Bjerga explained. First, the USDA is talking about direct payments to farmers based on how much they have lost per bushel of soybeans or other products, as well as the purchase by the USDA of commodities such as nuts, almonds, and legumes, for food distribution programs.

Third, the USDA is planning to promote U.S. exports to other countries, as they still have to be sold somewhere.

Congress does not need to approve the aid package. It is under the authority of the USDA, and Bjerga noted that the Obama administration bought about $170 million of U.S. farm goods amid a drought in 2012.

“Of course, the scale for this is just much larger, and it’s not because of some national weather event. It’s because of the administration’s own policies,” Bjerga said.

Thus, many members of Congress – including many in Trump’s owner party – are not happy with the proposal at all. They say farmers want free trade, not handouts. Agricultural Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said "they would much prefer trade, rather than aid."

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Trump's trade war "is cutting the legs out from under farmers and White House's 'plan' is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches."

Senators said the aid package could help short-term, but they're worried about losing long-term access to export markets. "When the tariff war is over... how do we get those markets back?" asked Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)