By Marlee Moore
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today detailed how $6.3 billion in aid will assist farmers whose markets have been disrupted through trade retaliations. The plan is the first round of up to $12 billion in aid announced by President Donald J. Trump last month.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mitt Walker said the aid is short-term relief that will ease concerns for farmers.
“Although we’re hopeful trade negotiations will end with better conditions for farmers, this package is a step forward in helping farmers deal with current uncertain markets,” said Walker, the Federation’s National Legislative Programs director.
At $1.65 per bushel, soybean farmers are slated to receive $3.6 billion of the $4.7 billion in total direct payments through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP). Pork farmers will receive $290 million total, at $8 a head.
Farmers can apply after harvest is complete and total 2018 production can be reported. The rate depends on the severity of trade disruption and period of adjustment to new trade patterns. Applications are available Sept. 4. The first round of payments will be based on 50 percent of a farmer’s 2018 production. If a second payment is approved for the remaining 50 percent of production, the amount will be determined by USDA.
Remaining commodities and initial payment rates are cotton, 6 cents per pound; corn, 1 cent per bushel; milk, 12 cents per hundredweight; sorghum, 86 cents per bushel; and wheat, 14 cents per bushel.
MFP payments are capped per person or legal entity at a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat. MFP payments for dairy or hogs are capped at a combined $125,000.
The Food Purchase and Distribution Program will purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities targeted by retaliation. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will distribute products to through the Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs.
Commodities and target payments include beef at $14.8 million; dairy at $84.9 million; pecans at $16 million; and pork at $558.8 million.
USDA will also devote $200 million to developing foreign markets for U.S. crops, through advertising, public relations, participation in trade fairs and market research. Applications for the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program are due Nov. 2.