Farm Country Has Mixed Feelings About Tariff Aid
July 25, 2018

Farm Country Has Mixed Feelings About Tariff Aid

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Following USDA’s announcement to provide $12 billion in relief to farmers suffering financial harm from President Trump’s trade tactics,reactions to the deal are mixed, ranging from gratitude to skepticism. 

 

“The $12 billion package of agricultural assistance announced today by the administration will provide a welcome measure of temporary relief to our farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the financial effects of the trade war,” said Zippy Duval, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, in a prepared statement. “This should help many of our farmers and ranchers weather the rough road ahead and assist in their dealings with their financial institutions. We are grateful for the administration’s recognition that farmers and ranchers needed positive news now and this will buy us some time.”

 

Nearly every trade group that released a statement about the aid package emphasized the need for trade agreements rather than subsidies.

 

"Farmers across America depend on open markets and stable contracts for their livelihood.  The best relief for the president’s trade war would be ending the trade war,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers For Free Trade. “Farmers need contracts, not compensation, so they can create stability and plan for the future. This proposed action would only be a short-term attempt at masking the long-term damage caused by tariffs."

John Heisdorffer, American Soybean Association President and soybean grower from Keota, Iowa, said expanding markets would produce a better outcome than the aid package. 

“Our best course of action is to expand other markets and develop new ones to buy the soybeans we’re not selling to China,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “This means finishing the NAFTA negotiations as soon as possible so we can begin talks on new bilateral agreements with other key soybean markets including Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.”

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are thankful the Administration “recognizes farming as a risky business and acknowledges that farmers need help to manage the additional risk from its trade policies.” However, the trade organizations add that they are concerned that a lengthy trade war will cause “long-term, irreparable harm to U.S. agriculture.”

 

“We urge the Administration to recognize this self-inflicted damage and to end the trade war immediately as well as to work within the rules-based trading system in partnership with like-minded countries to address serious problems in the global economy,” they said in a statement.

According to California Farm Bureau Federation president Jamie Johansson, purchases of fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats and other food products, to benefit food banks and other food-aid programs through the program could help farmers in his state.

 

“We hope these food purchases will provide some immediate relief to farmers and ranchers affected by trade disputes,” Johansson said in a statement. “Investing these purchases back into communities through food banks will be helpful in more ways than one.”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation, said hisorganization appreciates the president upholding his commitment to keep farmers from bearing the brunt of the trade war alone. 

“Today’s announcement reflects requests that our organization has made of USDA to relieve some of the financial pain dairy farmers are feeling due to lost export opportunities,” he said in a statement. “We thank the administration for incorporating our recommendations. We will continue working with USDA on program details to achieve provisions that are efficient, cost-effective and equitable to farmers of all sizes in all regions.”

Similarly, Kevin Skunes president of the National Corn Growers Association reminded the industry that the devil is in the details. 

“NCGA appreciates the Administration’s recognition of the harm to producers caused by tariffs and trade uncertainty. The fine print will be important,” he said in a statement. “We know the package won’t make farmers whole but look forward to working with USDA on the details and implementation of this plan.”

 

The program will be a voluntary sign up, so producers won’t have to participate if they don’t want to. Do you plan to sign up? Let me know: alaca@farmjournal.com

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