President Trump’s pledge of $12 billion to help farmers caught in the middle of trade wars got a sharp rebuke from many parties — including farmers themselves.
Trump announced the plan during a speaking engagement at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City on Tuesday. The effort is to help protect farmers from fallout of tariff disputes between the United States and China, the European Union and other countries.
Farmers for Free Trade, an advocacy group for the agricultural industry, said in a statement Tuesday that “the best relief for the president’s trade war would be ending the trade war.”
“The $20 billion trade surplus in agriculture is due to decades of effort by American farmers who’ve opened new markets and developed world class supply chains,” said the group’s executive director, Brian Kuehl. “Unfortunately, a one-time check won’t replace the deterioration of long-term contracts and relationships. Nor will it address the many sectors of agriculture impacted – from producers, to grain bin operators, to shippers. Farmers need stable markets to plan for the future. As such, we urge the Administration to take immediate action to stop the trade war and get back to opening new markets.”
Trump has imposed tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese exports, with China retaliating with tariffs of its own. The president has also implemented tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Farmers have been hit hard by those countries targeting U.S. products such as soybeans, dairy, and produce.
But the talk of a temporary bailout of the agricultural industry didn’t sit well with some. A representative of a manufacturing coalition told Reuters the farmer subsidy was “frustrating,” given that manufacturers are feeling the effects of the steel and aluminum tariffs.
National Review reported the aid proposal would come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, a depression-era program that can borrow $30 billion from the U.S. Treasury without the approval of Congress. The plan is the result of research on how the Trump administration can see its trade war through to conclusion “by warding off domestic opposition in the farming community,” that outlet said.
The aid to farmers would be provided by direct assistance, as well as food-purchase and trade-promotion programs.
Republicans generally resist such government assistance programs, and some were quick to criticize the plan. U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent critic of Trump, said the trade war “is cutting the legs out from under farmers” and the plan was “to spend $12 billion on gold crutches.”
“America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world,” he said. “This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”
Twitter became the battleground for arguments Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wrote that “tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers. If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.”
Trump defended his policies on Twitter on Tuesday. “Tariffs are the greatest! Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hits with Tariffs. It’s as simple as that — and everybody’s talking! Remember we are the ‘piggy bank’ that’s being robbed. All will be great!” he wrote.
Trump has threatened to ratchet up the dispute by placing tariffs on another $500 billion of Chinese products.
Trump also tweeted that he has spurred those countries he felt treated the U.S. unfairly on trade to come to Washington, D.C., to negotiate. “This should have taken place many years ago but, as the saying goes, better late than never!” he wrote.
He previously said that farmers were “great patriots” and that “they understand what they’re doing for the country.”
Trump is currently on a tour through farm-heavy states, with visits to Iowa and Illinois planned for later in the week.