Trade Aid welcome, but Farmers still Favor Resolution

PortVirginia farmers are among those who stand to benefit from a second round of federal aid designed to offset income losses from foreign trade disputes.

But many farmers would still prefer to see a resolution to trade conflicts rather than a government check.

“We continue to be grateful for help in these desperate times, but we must have a congressionally approved trade deal with our major trading partners: Canada, China and Mexico,” said Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation vice president of agriculture, development and innovation. “A trade deal now is what’s needed to improve the economic outlook for Virginia farmers.”

China slammed the door shut on U.S. soybean exports 18 months ago after a trade war erupted. Sales of many American farm commodities have suffered as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is debated. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the USMCA treaty July 30, and American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said it’s time to seal the deal.

“It’s time to wrap up negotiations and ratify USMCA,” Duvall emphasized. “Rarely, if ever, have we heard support from such diverse interests recognizing the benefits of this agreement.”

He added that “farmers and ranchers are carrying the heaviest burden from the ongoing trade wars. We need USMCA now to strengthen relationships with our North American trading partners and improve access to these markets.”

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released details on the Market Facilitation Program, the Food Purchase and Distribution Program and the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program. All are part of the second round of payments and purchases the Trump administration has implemented to assist struggling farmers.

Caroline County grain farmer Lynwood Broaddus has followed the trade disputes closely. The Caroline County Farm Bureau president said his family has so far managed to trim expenses enough to stay in business, but they can’t afford to turn down any government aid that’s being offered.

“If the government is giving out compensation, if you’re not pursuing it, someone else is,” Broaddus said. “Land rents will soon reflect those payments. So if you’re not accepting government aid, you’re putting yourself at an economic disadvantage.”

According to an AFBF analysis, the second round of financial aid to farmers will be split into three payments for grain growers, dairy farmers and hog producers. The first payment will consist of either 50 percent of a producer’s calculated full payment, or $15 per acre, and is expected to be mailed in mid-August.

The payments are capped at $250,000 per person or legal entity for non-specialty commodities like soybeans, and producers must have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 over the past three years to receive a payment.

The second and third round of aid payments are not guaranteed; the government will determine later this year if they are warranted.

Farmers began signing up for the payments at their local USDA Farm Service Agency offices on July 29. Last year the USDA distributed $8.5 billion in payments to producers who applied for aid.

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