The Trump administration on Tuesday promised up to US$12 billion in aid to US farmers to help them weather the impact of trade spats with China, the European Union and others.
Under the plan, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use emergency funds to assist and buy crops from farmers who have been hurt by retaliatory tariffs from other nations.
Producers of soybean and other farm products as well as those involved in meat and dairy business will be among the beneficiaries.
The relief package is intended as a temporary boost to farmers as the US and China negotiate on trade issues, Reuters quoted officials as saying.
“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 Department of Agriculture.
The aid will be financed through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation and will not require congressional approval, Perdue said.
The financial assistance to farmers sends a clear signal that Donald Trump is determined to stick with tariffs as his weapon of choice in the conflict with China, EU and others, Reuters noted.
The US president, speaking at an event in Kansas City on Tuesday, reaffirmed his support for tariffs and pledged that “farmers will be the biggest beneficiary.”
“Just be a little patient,” Trump said.
Farmers have been a particular target in the current clash over trade policy as other countries seek to retaliate for Trump’s duties on Chinese goods as well as on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico.
Those affected economies have in turn targeted US agricultural products, including soybeans, dairy, meat, produce and liquor.
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 US agriculture industry will continue to suffer.
“The payments will be helpful to farmers facing overdue loans and angry bankers, but are completely insufficient if they mean that tariffs and the trade war will last for the foreseeable future,” Hurst said.
“They are a very temporary bandage to a self-inflicted wound.”
Some members of Trump’s own party agreed.
“Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers,” Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul wrote on Twitter. “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.”
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