WASHINGTON — U.S. agriculture officials are preparing to roll out another $16 billion in aid to farmers hurt by the Trump administration’s trade war with China, with payments to begin next month.
The second round of tariff-aid payments will give time for President Donald Trump to strike trade deals, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on a conference call on Thursday that gave details of the new package.
Payments are based on similar damage criteria as a first round and are designed to avoid distorting planting decisions. But rather than rates based on crop type, the program uses a blend of crops grown in each county, with corn growers getting the same rate as wheat for example. The rate will range from $15 to $150 an acre, with a limit of $500,000 per person.
“With wet spring planting and growing conditions, ongoing trade disputes and the EPA’s destruction of the ethanol demand market, farmers have been in a state of uncertainty for many months,” Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and farmer from Dorchester, said in a statement. “We’re hopeful USDA’s MFP 2.0 will greatly support our state’s corn farmers and provide relief during a time of uncertainty for ag markets.”
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In addition to trade disputes and wild planting weather, farmers have been hampered by years of global overproduction that has kept prices low. U.S. farm income dropped 16% last year to $63 billion, about half the level it was as recently as 2013. For Trump, appeasing his rural-voter base has become crucial ahead of 2020 elections.
Trump announced the new aid package in May as he stepped up his trade war with China by threatening new tariffs against the Asian nation. At the time, the USDA said growers of crops including corn, soybeans and wheat will receive a payment based on a single county rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to those crops in aggregate in 2019.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to travel to China Monday for the first high-level, face-to-face trade negotiations between the world’s two biggest economies since talks broke down in May.
David Bruntz, a farmer from Friend who is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, said equally important to Nebrsaka farmers is passage of a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“We continue to be in contact with the president’s administration as well as Nebraska’s congressional delegation to communicate the importance of the passage of the USMCA,” Bruntz said in a statement.
Sign up for the MFP program begins Monday and runs through Dec. 6. More information can be found by visiting farmers.gov.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.