The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authorized up to $12 billion in emergency aid to help farmers affected by Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs.
“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The department will use three existing programs to offset the losses for farmers, help them find new export markets and buy some of their products for food banks, according to officials who briefed reporters Tuesday afternoon. Department officials say they will roll out signup for farmers on September first. They also say approach does not need congressional approval.
“We are grateful for the administration’s recognition that farmers and ranchers needed positive news now, and this will buy us some time,” said the American Farm Bureau in a statement. “This announcement is substantial, but we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets.”
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump defended his trade strategy: “Tariffs are the greatest!” he tweeted. “Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade [sic] negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs [sic].”
Tariffs are the greatest! Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs. It’s as simple as that – and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the “piggy bank” that’s being robbed. All will be Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
Many members of U.S. President Donald Trump’s party remain unconvinced. Republican lawmakers have been voicing opposition to the idea of a farmer bailout to offset the consequences of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, one of the few Republican officials who defended Trump’s remarks in Helsinki, criticized the farmer aid package. “Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers,” Paul tweeted. “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.”
Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers. If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 24, 2018
One of Trump’s fiercest Republican critics, Arizona Senator, Jeff Flake tweeted: “Tariffs are not “the greatest,” Mr. President. American farmers want access to markets, not taxpayer funded bailouts.”
Tariffs are not "the greatest," Mr. President. American farmers want access to markets, not taxpayer funded bailouts. https://t.co/iebzlAZlmp
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 24, 2018
Another Republican – a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Pat Roberts – said: “they [farmers] would much prefer trade, rather than aid.”
At a U.S. veterans’ rally in Kansas City, Missouri – near the center of U.S. soybean production in the American Midwest – President Trump offered this reassurance ahead of impending trade talks: “We’re making tremendous progress. They’re all coming. They don’t want to have those tariffs put on them.”
“We don’t expect this to persist into another year. This is a one time program,” said Greg Ibach, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs on a briefing call with reporters.
The move comes on the same day that the U.S. Trade Representative held public hearings on the potential impact on U.S. companies of another round of duties on Chinese goods—25 percent tariffs on 16 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, including electronics.