USDA aid appreciated, but trade still the priority

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an assistance package to provide relief to farmers impacted by retaliatory trade tariffs. The three-part plan, which provides assistance up to $12 billion for the nation’s farmers, includes a Market Facilitation Program, a Food Purchase and Distribution Program and a Trade Promotion Program.

After the announcement, Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president, released the following statement to the media.

“While this $12 billion in agricultural assistance will provide temporary relief to Hoosier farmers, the importance of trade and open markets is essential to supporting our farmers’ bottom-line. Farm income has dropped about 50 percent over the last five years. Recent drops in corn, soybean and pork prices compound the real dollars lost to Indiana farmers, their families, rural communities and our state’s economy,” said Kron. “The administration’s announcement of the assistance package is confirmation that our concerns have been heard but there is still work to do. We will continue to express the importance of reliable trade agreements to Indiana’s representatives in Congress.”

The press release issued by USDA expanded on the three programs that will be used to assist farmers:

  • The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency, 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.
  • Additionally, USDA will use the CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
  • Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.

The USDA aid program is scheduled to start on Sept. 4. However, as of The Hoosier Farmer’s deadline, no further details on the plan or instructions for farmer enrollment have been released by USDA. The INFB public policy team will continue to monitor the situation and report on it as developments occur.

“Since the USDA’s announcement, additional tariffs have been proposed by both the U.S. and China. If enacted, nearly every segment of American agriculture will be impacted,” Kron said. “This assistance package is a short-term fix to the long-term problem of disrupted trade markets. If the situation continues to escalate, Hoosier farm families will continue to suffer the consequences.”