USDA Offers Short-Term Relief for Tariff-Affected Farmers

Last week, we wrote about how retaliatory tariffs imposed by countries like Mexico and China are inflicting pain on the U.S. dairy industry. Those levies themselves were a response to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on China, Mexico and other countries. The National Milk Producers Foundation estimated the loss for dairy farmers to be $1.8 billion through the remainder of this year.

Today, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would enact “a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally.” That plan is a $12 billion economic-assistance program to “help producers meet the needs of disrupted markets.”

As reported by Reuters, this short-term, federal infusion of tax dollars, gives “direct payments to farmers, trade promotion and food purchases,” and is “already authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation act and do not need Congressional approval.” The CCC was created in 1933 and was transferred to the USDA in 1939. It was then reincorporated as a federal corporation within the USDA in 1948.

These are the programs outlined in the news release from the USDA:

  • The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA), 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. It will purchase unexpected surpluses 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 (FAS), in conjunction with the private sector, to assist in developing new export markets for U.S. farm products.

The National Milk Producers Federation, which works closely with the Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America, released a statement today saying, “The new tariff mitigation program announced Tuesday by the Trump Administration should provide badly needed economic assistance to dairy farmers facing significant financial losses.”

“We appreciate the president following through on his pledge that America’s farmers won’t bear the brunt of the economic losses generated by the current trade conflicts,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Today’s announcement reflects requests that our organization has made of USDA to relieve some of the financial pain dairy farmers are feeling due to lost export opportunities.”