The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) details how trade aid payments were administered through the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) in a recent report. The program was established in 2018 to provide relief for farmers struggling with trade complications with China. In 2019, the maximum payment amount was doubled to $250,000 for each type of commodity. A total of about $14.4 billion was distributed to 643,965 farming operations.
The nonpartisan GAO found that Minnesota, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas, each received a total of more than $1 billion worth of MFP payments. Iowa alone accounted for 11 percent of the total amount of payments that were distributed. Georgia had the highest average amount received per individual at $42,545, while Arizona had the highest average payment per farming operation at $83,406. Farming operations that produced nonspecialty crops received the overwhelming majority of trade aid payments in 2019. The report pointed out that less than 10 percent of the overall MFP support went to farming operations that produced specialty crops or dairy and hogs.
California farmers received a total of approximately $317 million in trade aid payments through the MFP, accounting for a little more than two percent of the overall total. Slightly less than 10,000 farming operations in the state received an average of $31,733 each. Nearly $96 million in payments were received for California nonspecialty crops, while more than $221 million was received for specialty crops, dairy, and hogs.
The trade aid payments were distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. The GAO report had been requested by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, who has been critical of how the MFP payments were being dispersed.
“From the start, I’ve been concerned that the Trump Administration’s trade payments have picked winners and losers and left smaller farms behind,” Stabenow said in a news release. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s unequal treatment of farmers is a pattern that we’re continuing to see in USDA’s COVID-19 relief program.”