Although U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has been telling farmers for months not to expect any 2020 trade aid, President Donald Trump indicated that further support of the agriculture industry is still a possibility. In a Tweet last week, the President said that the federal government will step in to help support farmers as the new trade deals start to take effect.
“If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government, paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA!” said President Trump.
The announcement of the potential for 2020 trade aid came on the heels of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that forecast an increase of only three percent for agricultural exports in fiscal 2020. The nominal projected increase was not what the industry was hoping for after the recent developments in significant trade markets.
Secretary Perdue has been telling the agriculture industry not to count on another round of tariff relief payments for 2020, noting that the worst of the tariff burden was coming to an end. However, at the USDA Ag Outlook Forum in Washington, Secretary Perdue said that any unexpected disruption in global trade may warrant supplemental intervention.
The initial skepticism surrounding China’s ability to meet its obligation of $40 billion in purchases has now been compounded by the negative impact the coronavirus is having on the Chinese economy. Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture, Mike Conaway had previously made note of the likelihood that the Trump administration would authorize another round of Market Facilitation Payments, which may be necessary depending on how quickly the Chinese economy can recover.
While appreciative of the support for farmers and ranchers, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has voiced concern over how the assistance packages are being administered. In a letter to Secretary Perdue, NFU President Roger Johnson encouraged more transparency in the process of administrating farm support. Johnson expressed concern that the exclusion of Congress in the decision-making process for trade assistance could negatively impact future farm bills and agricultural spending.