The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin making a second round of 2019 trade aid payments to U.S. farmers next week. The payments are intended to compensate farmers for lost income from the U.S.-China trade war. According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the payments “will give farmers, who have had a tough year due to unfair trade retaliation and natural disasters, much needed funds in time for Thanksgiving.”
These payments are the second part of a three-part $16 billion aid package announced in May. The first set of 2019 payments covered 50 percent of a farmer’s eligible production. The new funds will cover an additional 25 percent. Sign-ups for the payments will be open at Farm Service Agency offices through Dec. 6. If conditions warrant, the third part of the payments will be made in January 2020.
Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration levied duties on Chinese goods over the country’s unfair trade practices. China retaliated by imposing tariffs on some U.S. agriculture exports, hurting row crop growers, hog farmers and dairy producers. The two countries are now trying to negotiate a deal to end the tensions.
This will be the second year in a row that the government has implemented a multi-billion dollar trade aid package for farmers. The U.S. government spent about $12 billion on the package issued in 2018. This year, the USDA revamped the calculations used to determine the amount of aid farmers received. The farmers have been getting paid different rates per county rather than per crop.
Some farm groups are already calling for another year of compensation. However, some are calling for an overhaul of the determination formula, saying the current rounds of payments unfairly favor farmers in the South over those in the Midwest. Perdue hasn’t ruled out another trade relief program for 2020 production, but said, “We’re hopeful that trade would supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020.”