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Floodwater surrounds a farm in March near Craig, Missouri. Midwest states are battling some of the worst floodings they have experienced in decades as rain and snowmelt from the "bomb cyclone" inundated rivers and streams. 

As the calendar turned to August, the second round of impact aid for farmers and ranchers – totaling $16 billion – affected by ongoing trade wars is set to be disbursed.

The money will no doubt be welcomed by agricultural producers in need of a boost. But, these payouts fail to address the underlying causes of the problems that required this aid in the first place.

Rather than using tariffs – inviting retaliatory measures by other nations that hurt Americans’ access to overseas markets – and attempting to soften the blow with these payments, the White House must approach trade differently. The cost of these remedies far exceeds the benefit.

The math shows the revenue of the tariffs imposed upon China isn’t paying for the aid.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reporting last month that the $20.8 billion in revenue won’t cover the $28 billion promised to offset farm and ranch losses. And that’s before considering tariffs are taxes whose costs are ultimately borne by consumers – all of us Americans.

Furthermore, the 54% of payments from the first round of impact aid distributed to farmers went to just 10% of recipients, according to Bloomberg. Many recipients lived in our nation’s largest cities and had limited connection to day-to-day operations on these operations. The Kearney Hub noted the $12 billion it provided amounted to a penny per bushel.

Instead of punishing bad actors – and China certainly qualifies – in a manner that hurts Nebraskans and Americans, the administration must take a more comprehensive approach to free trade that reduces, not erects, barriers to the overseas markets so critical to our state’s economy.

Nebraska’s top four exports – all related to beef, soybeans and corn – are farm and ranch commodities, and they accounted for more than $2 billion in revenue last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These products alone composed more than a quarter of the $7.9 billion in the state’s total exports, and China is the state’s fourth-largest export destination.

As we’ve written in the past, cracking down on China’s intellectual property theft and heavy-handed government intervention makes complete sense. Yes, the country’s economic growth has been curbed by these tariffs, but it’s not without collateral damage felt acutely by Nebraska ag producers already fighting low commodity prices, high property taxes, Mother Nature’s wrath and more.

Political decisions that fail to reflect the reality of agriculture? They represent yet another threat, as U.S. trade policy has regrettably directed pressure inward to fight China itself, rather than outward through cooperative measures with allies along the lines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Rather than relying on impact aid long term to cushion the blow farmers and ranchers continue to feel, federal officials must pursue less destructive options. Remember the Nebraska Farm Bureau found that tariffs cost the state between $700 million and $1 billion in farm income last year.

Accordingly, Nebraska’s ag producers need more trade, not aid.

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