By Jeff Helms
WASHINGTON, July 24 — Alabama Farmers Federation welcomed an announcement today from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue of $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by foreign tariffs on agricultural products.
The Federation’s Mitt Walker said the aid will serve as a temporary bridge to better trade deals for U.S. farmers and the nation.
“We appreciate President Trump’s administration recognizing the impact intense trade negotiations are having on U.S. farmers and providing assistance to weather tough economic times,” said Walker, the Federation’s director of national programs. “Alabama farmers remain hopeful the ultimate solution will be a healthy trade environment where U.S. agriculture can compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world.”
Perdue called the aid package a short-term fix to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals.
“The President promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher, and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong,” Perdue said. “Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes (to) illegal retaliatory tariffs. USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations.”
USDA officials said they hope to have more details about applying for assistance by early September. Meanwhile, Perdue said the package includes three components:
- The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
- A Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service will purchase unexpected surpluses of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
- The Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in conjunction with the private sector will assist in developing new export markets for U.S. farm products.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised the aid package but encouraged continued work toward improved trade.
“This should help many of our farmers and ranchers weather the rough road ahead and assist in their dealings with their financial institutions,” Duvall said. “We are grateful for the administration’s recognition that farmers and ranchers needed positive news now, and this will buy us some time.
“This announcement is substantial, but we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets. Our emphasis continues to be on trade and restoring markets, and we will continue to push for a swift and sure end to the trade war and the tariffs impacting American agriculture,” he added.