The second installment of funding support for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) should be arriving in the coming weeks. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told reporters last week that the second round of MFP payments of 2019 should be ready “hopefully at the end of this month or early December.” The funding support for the second installment is more than $3.6 billion, which is the same amount being considered for a possible third installment to potentially be dispersed sometime in the first part of 2020 if necessary.
USDA data shows that nearly half of the $14.5 billion that was authorized for direct payments as part of the trade assistance package has already been sent to farmers. More than a dozen Democratic senators have voiced concern about how the trade relief payments are being dispersed in a letter sent to Secretary Perdue. The group of legislators alleges the MFP is unfairly “picking winners and losers between regions and crops,” and “helping wealthy farms and foreign companies instead of small farms.” USDA has responded to the concerns, defending how the payment formulas are structured and noted that the agency welcomes “constructive feedback from any member of Congress with recommendations as to how the program could be better administered.”
In total, nearly $15 billion has been provided since 2018 to support American farmers and ranchers affected by ongoing trade tensions. While the MFP payments have been helpful in mitigating some of the impacts of the increased tariffs, the vast majority of farmers would prefer a trade agreement in lieu of continuing trade relief payments. Perdue noted his optimism that some kind of agreement can be reached soon which would potentially eliminate the need for any more financial assistance.
“We’re hopeful that the China negotiations can come to a favorable conclusion,” said Perdue. “The numbers that we’re talking about right now would be very beneficial to agricultural producers and we’re hopeful that trade would supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020 in that regard.”