Trump launches $12 billion welfare program to bail out farmers harmed by his tariffs

The president's trade war with China is exacting a price on farmers — and Trump wants taxpayers to foot the bill

By Matthew Rozsa

Published August 29, 2018 11:35AM (EDT)

 (AP/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Photo montage by Salon)

President Donald Trump's trade war with China has just forced the White House to bail out a group that is being particularly hard hit — American farmers.

The administration is paying out $4.7 billion from a package that will ultimately amount to $12 billion in order to help farmers of cotton, hogs, soybeans, wheat and other products hit by Trump's trade war. Most of that money will help soybean farmers — roughly $3.6 billion in total.

"Early on, the President instructed me, as Secretary of Agriculture, to make sure our farmers did not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs," Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue explained in a statement. "After careful analysis by our team at USDA, we have formulated our strategy to mitigate the trade damages sustained by our farmers. Our farmers work hard, and are the most productive in the world, and we aim to protect them."

The pain being felt by farmers was indeed all too predictable, particularly considering that Trump is the first president to oppose free trade on principle since Herbert Hoover in the 1930s.

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"China’s targeted, retaliatory tariffs on soybeans, meats, and other farm commodities will hammer American farmers already suffering from low farm prices," Ed Gerwin, a senior fellow for trade and global opportunity at the Progressive Policy Institute, told Salon in July. "And China’s new duties on imports of U.S. vehicles — which have been surging in recent years — will now make it harder for American plants and workers to compete in that key market."

He added, "President Trump has made a big deal about the benefits of recent tax cuts for business and average Americans. But he can’t hide the fact that these escalating tariffs are tax increases that will hurt American competitiveness, cost consumers and destroy jobs."

For their part, farmers don't seem too pleased with the plan.

Short-term aid does not create long-term market stability," said Doug Schroeder, vice chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association, in a statement. "Producers need trade, not aid.”

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Agriculture Department China Donald Trump Mexico Tariffs Trade Policy