WASHINGTON D.C. - Farmers, this year, have been hit hard by changes to trade policies, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief forthcoming, at least not in 2019. The Trump administration has recently reported that there are no active plans to provide more aid to farmers at this time. While the administration points to the $12 billion in aid provided last year, it has also claimed that the option of providing aid would be considered if trade negotiations and weak commodity prices linger, reports Reuters.
“We have been very clear to the agriculture community that we did not anticipate nor should they anticipate a 2019 Market Facilitation Program,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in a statement to reporters.
Along with the controversial ongoing Tomato Suspension Agreement withdraw that we reported on earlier this year, farmers have had to contend with imposed tariffs, limiting exports. In 2018, Beijing imposed tariffs on the import of soybeans, grain sorghum, pork, and other U.S. agricultural goods as retaliation for U.S. levies. According to Reuters, exports of soybeans to China plummeted over 90 percent, and U.S. soybean sales elsewhere failed to make up for the loss.
In 2016, farmers were a key constituency for the Trump campaign’s election, and yet they are a group that has been hit hard by Trump’s trade policies that led to tariffs with trading partners like Mexico, Canada, and China. Many farmers have called for an end to the trade disputes, which, reports Reuters, have worsened credit conditions for the rural economy and raised farm debt to the highest levels in decades.
Some members of the administration have suggested flexibility to the farm aid policy, such as White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who said that aid would be considered, if necessary. However, Secretary Perdue stated that he was unaware of any such plans.
“As these trade negotiations go longer and prices remain low, we will look at that as we go forward,” he said. “But we don’t want to raise expectations that anything’s under consideration at this point.”
A new round of aid for 2019 was previously ruled out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than $8 billion was paid out as part of last year’s program, as of March. The Department reported that the deadline to apply has been extended to May 17.
Will ongoing trade disputes cause the Trump administration to reconsider its aid policy? Or will farmers have to fend for themselves? AndNowUKnow will continue to report.