The White House Office of Management and Budget has finished its review of trade mitigation payments to the nation's producers hit by a trade war with China.
According to OMB's website, the interagency review of USDA's Market Facilitation Program, part of $16 billion in new ag trade assistance announced in May, concluded on Friday. President Donald Trump announced Monday that the package to help farmers deal with a loss of exports to China has been cleared for implementation.
“So, I’m going to give the farmers — we’re going to help them out because they are great patriots,” Trump said Monday. “We’re going to give them $16 billion. And we just did. Been approved ... And I approved it.”
USDA and White House spokespersons were not available for immediate comment.
The U.S. ag sector has been hit especially hard by the U.S.-China trade war over the past year, and hostilities seem to remain high despite the fact that both countries resumed negotiations last week after talks previously fell apart.
Trump, after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in late June, said that China had agreed to begin increasing its ag imports from the U.S. as a show of good faith, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Farmers have struggled since Chinese retaliatory tariffs have sharply reduced the grains, oilseeds, meat, fruit, vegetables, tree nuts and wine that U.S. producers can sell to some of their largest customers, but Trump promised that farmers will some of the biggest beneficiaries once the trade war is over. He stressed that the $16 billion will now be put “back into the farm and ag system and the farmers are thrilled …”
The first $12 billion trade aid package to help with China-related losses was unveiled last year and is still being distributed. Like the first package, the second $16 billion version is split up into direct payments through MFP, a commodity purchase program and funds for overseas marketing efforts.
USDA announced payment rates for individual commodities for soybeans, corn, wheat and other crops under the first MFP, but the department says that won’t happen for the new version. This time, payments will be made to farmers of those row crops based on a fixed rate for the county in which they were planted.
The payment rates still haven’t been released, but that could change soon. Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, told Agri-Pulse last week that USDA had been waiting on OMB to sign off on the plan for MFP payments. Farmers, he said in an interview, could be able to apply for MFP by the end of July and payments could be going out next month.
“We’re committed to getting those payments out, maybe by mid-August,” he said.
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