Starting Monday, the Agriculture Department will start processing the second tranche of payments to farmers under the 2019 version of the Market Facilitation Program, the Trump administration's effort to compensate producers for the impact of retaliatory tariffs.
The payments will amount to 25% of the total 2019 MFP payment for which they were eligible. The first round, which totaled $7.5 billion, covered half of the eligible payment, or at least $15 per acre.
Farm Service Agency computers will automatically calculate the second round of payments on Monday, according to a notice to local office.
The Trump administration has not yet decided whether to release the third and last tranche of payments for the remaining 25%.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters last week that a third round probably wouldn’t be needed, depending on the outcome of a “phase one” trade agreement with China.
President Donald Trump says China plans to buy up to $50 billion a year in U.S. agricultural commodities under the deal, although the talks have reportedly slowed in recent days over China’s resistance to making hard commitments.
“This second tranche of 2019 MFP payments, along with already provided disaster assistance, will give farmers, who have had a tough year due to unfair trade retaliation and natural disasters, much needed funds in time for Thanksgiving,” said Perdue.
Senate Democrats charged in a report this week that the formula on which the 2019 payments are based is skewed in favor of cotton and southern farms.
“I’m disappointed the Trump administration has not corrected the serious inequities within their trade assistance program," the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said Friday. "While farmers need help to weather the Administration’s trade uncertainty, the payments continue to favor certain farms over others. I urge the Administration to make improvements that will provide certainty for farmers that need help the most.”
But Perdue told members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting on Friday in Kansas City, Mo., that USDA has no plans to change the payment rates. "I haven't heard farmers complaining, aside from this report that was put out in the Senate," he said, referring a report that Stabenow and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., released on Tuesday.
MFP signup at local Farm Service Agency offices will run through Dec. 6, the agency said.
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