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USDA sets forth details for $12B to counter ag tariffs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Beginning next week, farmers who suffered financial damages from what the Trump administration terms “unjustified retaliation” by foreign nations’ tariffs will be able to apply to the USDA’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP), as part of a $12 billion government farm aid fund.

“Our farmers work hard, and are the most productive in the world and we aim to protect them,” USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue said Monday afternoon, in announcing the details of the program.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will soon provide payments for corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybeans and wheat products. The agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will purchase up to $1.2 billion through its Food Purchase and Distribution Program.

Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be made available to develop foreign market programs for farm products.

Eligible applicants must have an ownership interest in the commodity, be engaged in farming and have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 for the tax years 2014, 2015 and 2016. The first payments will begin starting this month, the USDA said.

MFP applications will be available online at or producers may submit their MFP applications in person, by mail or by fax beginning Sept. 4.

Perdue said the funding would provide incremental payments to farmers to support prices of some of the hardest-hit commodities levied by foreign tariffs including soybeans, sorghum, cotton, corn, wheat and pork. The payment details were announced Monday, just after the White House also announced it had reached a preliminary trade deal with Mexico outside of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“It’s a big day for trade, a big day for our country,” President Trump said from the Oval Office. “We’ll get rid of the name NAFTA.”

He said it remains to be seen whether the United States can agree to a new trade deal with Canada, the third NAFTA partner. Any new trade deal needs Congressional approval.

When the multibillion-dollar farm aid package was announced on July 24 by the White House, Perdue said it was in response to what he called U.S. trading partners’ “illegal retaliation” to the policies of Trump, who had ordered billions of dollars of tariffs on imports covering a broad range of products and materials. Those tariffs, he said, applied to goods from China and those of the European Union.

China, a major market for U.S. agricultural exports, applied tariffs on $34 billion worth of a variety of U.S. products, including soybeans and pork.

American Soybean Assoc. President John Heisdorffer said, “This will provide a real shot in the arm for our growers, who have seen soybean prices fall by about $2 per bushel, or 20 percent, since events leading to the current tariff war with China began impacting markets in June.

“This assistance will be particularly helpful to farmers who didn’t forward-contract their crop earlier this year and who need to arrange financing for planting next year’s crop.”

ASA noted that China was the No. 1 export market for U.S. soybean growers in 2017, importing 31 percent of production, equal to 60 percent of total U.S soybean exports.