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Trump Tweat Suggests More Trade Bailout Money for Farmers
USAgNet - 02/24/2020

President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that he would give more bailout payments to farmers this year as they wait for trade deals to boost agricultural exports. According to Politico, the president's dangling of extra bailout money stands in contrast to his recent boasts that farmers should start buying more land and “bigger tractors” to keep up with the historic boom that he promised his new trade agreements would deliver.

“If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government,” Trump tweeted in all-caps. He also added, erroneously, that the money for the aid would come from tariffs his administration has slapped on billions of dollars of imported goods. Economists have shown that U.S. businesses and consumers are paying those duties, rather than China.

Additional aid could also draw some criticism from Democrats in Congress who have questioned the fairness of how the funding is distributed geographically and among commodity sectors.

The Agriculture Department has already paid farmers more than $23 billion to offset their financial losses under Trump’s trade war since 2018, on top of other tariff relief measures like commodity purchases and marketing assistance.

Secretary Sonny Perdue has repeatedly said farmers should not expect another round of aid for 2020, now that the U.S. and China have reached a deal to boost American farm exports.

“I would not anticipate it,” Perdue said Thursday at USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. Farmers have "got to farm for the market and what it’s telling them and what their capabilities are from a production perspective.”

Trump's latest comments caught the department off-guard, Politico reports.

“The president’s tweet was a surprise to us,” Ted McKinney, USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, said Friday at the conference. When asked about the USDA's opinion on more payouts to farmers, McKinney noted that the president "will make that decision, and we’ll go with that decision."

“Right now though, we are [going] full out to make and take advantage of the agreements we already have,” McKinney added, noting that both the department and the farmers would prefer to see “trade not aid.”

The department on Thursday projected that farm exports to China would total $14 billion this year, up from $10 billion in fiscal 2019. That estimate was far short of the $40 billion in U.S. farm goods that Beijing agreed to purchase under the phase one trade deal that took effect last week. Perdue said the planned increase in Chinese purchases was not fully factored into USDA’s export forecast.

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