Search ForexCrunch

The Trump administration is willing to extend up to $12 billion in aid to farmers in an effort to divert headwinds from growing trade wars with China, the European Union, and others, showing the US president’s dedication to his trade tariffs as a key trade strategy.

Key quotes

“The move to cushion the blow for a politically important constituency – rural and agricultural states that supported U.S. President Donald Trump by wide margins in the election but have been targeted by China’s retaliation to his trade tactics – was met with broad criticism by many farmers and farm-belt lawmakers. Trump’s trade policies have become central in several rural-state U.S. Senate races ahead of congressional elections in November, as Democrats there try to keep hold of several seats that Republicans have targeted.  The president, speaking at an event in Kansas City on Tuesday, aggressively reaffirmed his support for tariffs and pledged that ultimately, “farmers will be the biggest beneficiary.”

“Just be a little patient,” Trump said.

To that end, the relief package is intended to serve as only a temporary boost to farmers as the United States and China negotiate over trade issues, officials said.  “This obviously is a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy,” said Sonny Perdue, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The aid will be financed through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation and thus will not require congressional approval, Perdue said.

The CCC has broad authority to make loans and direct payments to U.S. growers when prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural goods are low.  The administration’s action appeared to divide Republicans.

But other Republicans were troubled by what they view as the kind of widespread government-assistance program their party has traditionally opposed.  “This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who frequently criticizes the president, a fellow Republican.  

“Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers,” Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul wrote on Twitter. “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers “” the answer is remove the tariffs.”  Democratic Representative Jackie Speier of California, a major agricultural state, on Twitter accused Trump of trying to “placate the farmers that voted for you” with a $12 billion payment.”