Senate Democrats Critique Farm Trade Payments

Earlier this month, Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski reported that, “President Donald Trump’s $16 billion bailout package for farmers hurt by the trade war with China unfairly benefits the South at the expense of the North and wealthy producers over smaller farms, Democratic senators concluded in a report released [on November 12th].

“The report, one of the sharpest congressional critiques yet of the Market Facilitation Program [MFP], said five southern states receive the highest average payments per acre under the program — Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. The analysis by Democratic committee staffers concluded that farmers in the Midwest and Northern Plains have been hurt the most.

“It also asserted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has done nothing to target the assistance to vulnerable small, medium and beginning farmers. Instead, it said the agency doubled the payment limits, directing even more money to large, wealthy farming partnerships.”

The AP article noted that, “The USDA said in a statement that payments are based on trade damage, not regions or farm size.

“‘While we appreciate feedback on this program, the fact of the matter is that USDA has provided necessary funding to help farmers who have been impacted by unjustified retaliatory tariffs,’ the statement said. ‘While criticism is easy to come up with, we welcome constructive feedback from any member of Congress with recommendations as to how the program could be better administered.'”

Mr. Karnowski added that, “The agency has set aside nearly $16 billion under MFP for the current crop year, up from the $12 billion inaugural edition for 2018 crops. The agency has paid farmers over $6.8 billion so far in first installments. According to the USDA, the states collecting the highest overall totals as of Tuesday — more than 60% of the total funds — are Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and Kansas.

“A separate analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation released later [on November 12th] backed up the USDA’s assertion the dollars have flowed mostly to the Midwest, even though the per-acre rates are higher in parts of the South. The Farm Bureau report said that’s because most of the acres planted in crops that are eligible for MFP payments are planted in the Midwest. The group did not address the Democratic senators’ claim that the formula is unfair.”

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