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DETAILS OF USDA'S TRADE AID RELEASED, AG GROUPS REACT
POLITICO reports:

After spending many months on the front lines of a brutal tit-for-tat trade war, farmers can start seeking some relief. USDA will begin accepting applications today from farmers and ranchers who qualify for a portion of the $4.7 billion that the Trump administration is getting ready to hand out. (Applications, caps and eligibility details are on the USDA site here and available at local FSA offices).

There is still potential for headaches in the weeks ahead. For one, the payments will be based on actual production numbers for each farmer - and many crops in the current season will not be fully harvested for months. Also unknown is how quickly the payments will be disbursed to eligible applicants.

Producers will be paid only for 50 percent of their yield; the government is holding onto the other half in case more needs to be paid out in early December. That's not quite what producers had in mind when the Trump administration promised them up to $12 billion in aid in July.

Where the money goes: The bulk of the direct payments - $3.6 billion, or 77 percent of the initial amount - will go to soybean growers. Hog farmers get the next biggest batch, about $290 million, followed by cotton, sorghum and dairy producers, Pro Ag's Helena Bottemiller Evich and Liz Crampton reported last week.
Corn growers are set to receive the least relief among those getting cash payments: one penny per bushel, totaling $96 million in direct aid. Wheat groups are also unhappy with their estimated $119 million allotment, the second smallest.

Helping the heartland: The bulk of the payments are set to benefit Midwestern farmers in states like Indiana and Iowa that voted for Donald Trump as president in 2016, leading some to question if various segments are getting their fair share.

Joseph Glauber, who served as USDA's chief economist during the Obama administration, cited the midterm timeline as one reason to publicize the payouts sooner. "If you're going to get money out, you want to do it as quickly as possible for political purposes," he said.
USDA officials say the decision was based on the harvest schedule - most row crops are gathered in the fall - not political favoritism.

Other details: As expected, specialty crops are also in line for some assistance through commodity purchasing, which some see as a sour deal compared with the direct payments. Apples, dairy, oranges, pistachios, potatoes, cherries and almonds will be part the USDA's plans to buy up $1.2 billion in agricultural goods to bolster prices for crops hurt by retaliatory tariffs.
The relative lopsidedness of the aid is renewing calls for the Trump administration to come back to the negotiating table, especially with China.

"This relief package shows that the administration isn't grasping the tough conditions being faced by farmers," said wheat farmer Jimmie Musick, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. "The long-term solution is to end the trade war."


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