Trump Tapping $12B to Help Farmers Affected by Tariffs

Trump Admininstration Announces Emergency Farmer Aid Plan to Mitigate Tariff Effects AP

"This obviously is a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy", said Sonny Perdue, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It's unclear how the need for such an aid package squares with Trump's boast on Tuesday that "tariffs are the greatest" or his insistence in March that "trade wards are good and easy to win".

The president, speaking at an event in Kansas City on Tuesday, reaffirmed his support for tariffs and pledged that "farmers will be the biggest beneficiary". "It's really just that simple", said Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin.

"You have a awful policy that sends farmers to the poorhouse, and then you put them on welfare, and we borrow the money from other countries", said GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

The Trump administration's plan is a direct acknowledgement that Trump's trade war is hurting USA businesses.

Trump and co. are reaching far back for assistance, relying partly on the Commodity Credit Corporation, a Depression-era program that started offering help to farmers in 1933.

Still, Blake Hurst, a corn and soybean farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said that unless the White House's policies change, the USA agriculture industry will continue to suffer.

The administration's action appeared to divide Republicans.

Democratic U.S. Representative Jackie Speier of California, a major agricultural state, challenged the president on Twitter. Some of Trump's fellow Republicans are also already balking at the idea of government-funded bailout for a trade war they oppose.

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Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the plan would spend billions on "gold crutches".

But the plan magnified objections among many Republicans that the tariffs amount to taxes on American consumers. "If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers - the answer is remove the tariffs".

Farmer organizations including the American Soybean Association have called the impacts of tariffs on agriculture "devastating".

A number of other Republicans have also criticized Trump for both the tariffs and the ensuing bailout.

This year's showcase comes during a contentious period in USA trade relations, after the Trump administration targeted China and some U.S. allies with steep tariffs on a variety of goods.

The plan focuses on Midwest soybean producers and others targeted by retaliatory measures. China alone imported $12.3 billion of US soybeans a year ago, according to the USDA.

Through the Market Facilitation Program, Food Purchase and Distribution Program and Trade Promotion Program, the USDA will provide payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum and other crops, by purchasing unexpected surplus of affected commodities and assist in developing new export markets. The rollout of billions of dollars in aid on Tuesday will be the first action Trump has taken to protect farmers from the whiplash they have had to face in recent months.

The news, however, lifted shares of farm equipment companies on the prospect that farmers will have more money to spend on tractors and other farm gear. Beijing's retaliatory tariffs have hit American soybeans and pork.

"What farmers in Iowa and throughout rural America need in the long term are markets and opportunity, not government handouts", Grassley said. "They are a very temporary bandage to a self-inflicted wound".

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