U.S. farm groups are coming out in strong support of the Trump administration’s new trade assistance package to help soften the blows of Chinese tariffs, but also stress the new aid is only short-term relief and far less effective than an end to the trade war.
“We’re still studying the whole plan, but on the surface it looks really good,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall about the aid package that could amount to as much as $16 billion. “We all know this doesn’t repay everything … that we could capture if we got a good trade deal with China.”
President Donald Trump, who met with Duvall and other farm leaders representing producers of corn, wheat, rice, peanut, soybean, dairy, pork and other commodities, railed against China’s continued theft of U.S. intellectual property. Trump said he hopes negotiators from the two countries can meet for another round of talks, but that has not been scheduled yet and he stressed that he is not concerned.
“I remain hopeful that at some point we’ll probably get together with China,” Trump said. “If it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine.”
But he also made clear that the new trade aid is meant to send a message to China.
“The $16 billion in funds will help keep our cherished farms thriving and make clear that no country has a veto on America’s economic and national security. We can’t let that happen."
Duvall, speaking to Agri-Pulse in an interview at the White House, said he doesn’t yet see a thawing of tensions between the two countries after each recently raised tariff rates on the other.
“The big question in farmland is can we last that long?” Duvall said. “Can we stretch it out long enough by eating up our assets … until we (get a deal with China). We all understand the president has a job to do and he’s trying to do it … but it’s just a matter of how long can we last.”
USDA left out a lot of specifics when it unveiled the three-pronged package earlier Thursday. National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp told Agri-Pulse it would be difficult to render a final judgment until USDA released payment rates under the plan’s Market Facilitation Program.
“We’ll know in a couple weeks, I’m sure,” he said and stressed that he did not believe it would be 4 cents per bushel of corn, as has been reported but not confirmed by the government. “There’s a lot of details that need to be fleshed out in the next few weeks. All we have is the press release that USDA gave out.”
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Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, stressed optimism over the aid package.
“The most important thing is … the administration has said to us that they are going to take a longer look at the trade disruption that has happened over multiple years, so I think that’s a very positive sign that there will be more equity towards the wheat farmers than in the last round of payments,” Goule told Agri-Pulse after the Trump meeting. “Thing look to be heading in the right direction.”
California farmers, especially those producing commodities not covered under the previous $12 billion aid package unveiled last year, will be pleased, said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson, who was also at the White House meeting.
Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts and macadamia nut producers will all get payments under the Market Facilitation Program portion of the package. Of those, only almond producers got payments last time.
“It’s clear that the administration wants to do what’s best for American farmers and ranchers,” Johansson said, “and we appreciate this second round of assistance for those who have suffered loss of markets and crop value due to retaliatory tariffs. Adding those crops will help further buffer rural California from the impact of the trade disputes, and we thank the administration for doing that.”
USDA agreed to buy up U.S. rice under the previous aid package, but not issue direct payments. That changed this time around. The USA Rice Federation argued that China recently opened up its market to U.S. rice, but has not been importing any because of the 25 percent tariff they levied on the grain in southern states and California.
"It was an honor to be invited to the White House to meet with President Trump this afternoon to express our appreciation for being included in this round of tariff mitigation aid, as well as to convey just how badly our industry has been affected by tariffs and bad trade actors, like China," said USA Rice Federation Chairman Charley Mathews.
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