Aug. 24, 2018
National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) reports:
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters Thursday that details of the Trump administration's $12 billion aid package for farmers harmed by tariffs will be released Monday, and not today as had been expected.
"Those details are going to be out Monday," Perdue said during an appearance at a New York dairy farm. He was responding to a question about how the assistance would be spread out between the dairy sector and other producers who have suffered losses due to retaliatory tariffs as the Trump administration has pursued its aggressive tariff policy.
"We will acknowledge that dairy and pork and soybeans will be the commodities that are most dramatically affected by the tariffs," Perdue said, noting the department is still on course to "roll out the program right after Labor Day." Pros, read more on timing here.
A black box: Remarkably little has leaked out about the USDA's trade aid plan, which is expected to include three prongs: payments to farmers, commodity purchases and trade promotion. The administration has been moving quickly to make the payments a reality. USDA's Market Facilitation Plan was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on July 27 - not even a month ago - and as of Thursday night it was still listed as being under review.
Anxious about the pie: Commodity groups are on edge as they await details from USDA on how payments will be determined, particularly after a report earlier this week that soybeans could get $1.65 per bushel, while corn could get a penny per bushel - a situation that, if true, would most likely result in soybean growers getting the majority of the payouts. Perdue cast doubt on those figures on Thursday, however.
"It's going to be hard for the Department of Agriculture to make everybody happy," said John Block, who served as agriculture secretary during the Reagan Administration and is now working with Americans for Farmers & Families, an ag coalition focused on protecting NAFTA.
Frustrations mount: Perdue, who did the rounds at a handful of dairy farms in upstate New York on Thursday, fielded quite a few comments questioning the direction of the administration's trade fight. Paul Molesky, a farmer in Rensselaer County, said he has 2,500 heads producing 200,000 pounds of milk each day.
"One day out of every week, all the milk we produce - about 25 million glasses of milk per day - goes to trade," he said. "So what's being done on the trade front in order to ensure our dairy products are going to Canada, Mexico and overseas?"
Perdue replied that he was hopeful the administration would have an agreement with Mexico on two-way NAFTA issues soon, which would then set a pattern for a larger agreement once Canada returns to the talks and as the administration moves toward formal trade talks with the European Union.
Immigration raised: Labor shortages were also on the minds of several farmers, including New York State Farm Bureau President David Fisher. House Agriculture Committee member John Faso, who accompanied Perdue on two of his stops, said he was pushing for legislation that would create an extended guestworker program for farm laborers. His proposal would require that they return to their country of origin a total of 60 days in a three-year period in return for legal status.
Faso said he hoped the legislation could be handled outside of a comprehensive immigration bill. "I see this as a confidence-building measure," Faso said. "There's not a lot of trust right now, but I think ag labor could be an area where we could actually build trust."