President Donald Trump announced today approval for billions of dollars in assistance payments for farmers who have been hurt by foreign tariffs during U.S. trade battles with China, Mexico, Canada and others.

The payments are the second round of payments under the Market Facilitation program, which USDA first unveiled in August. MFP was one of three programs announced and offered payments to producers impacted by the administration's global trade actions. The first round of payments was authorized earlier this year, and news on the second tranche was expected in early December before delays at the White House postponed the announcement until today.

“The President reaffirmed his support for American farmers and ranchers and made good on his promise, authorizing the second round of payments to be made in short order,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said just moments after Trump tweeted his decision to allow the additional assistance. “While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”

Perdue met Friday with Trump amid rising concern in the farming sector that the second half of the trade assistance package might not be released, sources told Agri-Pulse. Perdue had originally counted making today’s announcement more than a week ago, before the funds became hung up in prolongated debate at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Of the $12 billion allocated for the three trade assistance programs, about $9.6 billion was designated for MFP, a package of direct payments to commodity producers.

Only half of farmers’ production was calculated into the equation of how much they would receive under the MFP back in August and the other half should no go into the calculation for the “second half of their 2018 production,” USDA said in a statement today.

Rates of payment under the MFP vary widely, depending on the extent of damage that the USDA believed was being done by foreign tariffs.

The rates are multiplied by half the production on a farm for the initial payment:

  • Wheat: 14 cents per bushel
  • Soybeans: $1.5 per bushel
  • Sorghum: 86 cents per bushel
  • Cotton: 6 cents per pound
  • Corn: 1 cent per bushel
  • Dairy: 12 cents per hundredweight
  • Hogs: $8 per head

Producers are now eligible for a duplicate payment after today's announcement.

In statements, farm group leaders noted their appreciation for the second round of payments, but said trade market development and maintenance should be priorities for the administration moving forward.

“Soy growers are very thankful that President Trump understands the need for this payment on the full 2018 production and that the Administration will deliver the second half of the aid as promised, said American Soybean Association President Davie Stephens, “While it will not make our losses whole, it will certainly help offset the drop in prices we have experienced since China cut off U.S. soybean imports."

Jim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council, added similar sentiments.

"U.S. agriculture has borne the brunt of the retaliatory tariffs, so the administration's aid plan helps," he said. "We need to end these trade disputes soon and open new markets so we can export to consumers around the globe."

Back in August the USDA also allocated $1.4 billion for a newly created Food Purchase and Distribution Program and $200 million for the Ag Trade Promotion Program. Those aid programs are not eligible for any new funds.  

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