Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley applies for federal bailout for farmers hurt by Trump's trade war

The Iowa senator needs a bailout after Trump's trade policies have caused farmers to take a major hit

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 3, 2018 2:30PM (EDT)

Chuck Grassley; Donald Trump   (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Getty/Olivier Douliery/Salon)
Chuck Grassley; Donald Trump (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Getty/Olivier Douliery/Salon)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has applied for a federal bailout being offered to farmers who are suffering economic hardships as a result of President Donald Trump's trade policies.

The $12 billion in bailout funds is going to be divided up between the different types of farmers who most need it, as CNN reported in August:

The initial $4.7 billion of direct payments will go to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers. Farmers can begin requesting the aid on September 4, the US Department of Agriculture said.

Most of that aid has been set aside for farmers who grow soybeans. Their prices reached historic lows after China imposed a tariff on the legume.

The government will purchase up to $1.2 billion of commodities that have been targeted by retaliatory tariffs and distribute the surplus food to federal nutrition assistance programs for children and low-income Americans.

It will buy about $559 million of pork, $93 million of apples, $85 million of dairy products, and $85 million of pistachios.

The amount to be purchased was based on an analysis of the economic damage caused by tariffs from other countries, the USDA said.

"Grassley participates in farm programs for which he is legally eligible, including this program, like every other farmer. Sen. Grassley receives no special treatment and is always transparent about his participation," Michael Zona from Grassley's Senate office explained, according to

He added, "Payments are based on yields for the current crop year, which isn’t over yet. Grassley, like all participants, won’t know the amount until he turns in his final yield numbers."

Zona also defended his boss by characterizing him as a humble farmer, even though Grassley is one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate and chairs the influential Senate Judiciary Committee.

"As a family farmer, Sen. Grassley brings firsthand knowledge and experience on behalf of agriculture and rural America to the policymaking tables in Washington. Sen. Grassley and his family grow corn and soybeans in northeast Iowa," Zona explained.

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The fact that Trump needs to provide a $12 billion bailout for farmers is particularly striking, given the Republican Party's longstanding opposition to welfare programs. That said, the policy is also politically necessary for the GOP, given how Trump's trade war is negatively impacting farmers.

"China’s targeted, retaliatory tariffs on soybeans, meats, and other farm commodities will hammer American farmers already suffering from low farm prices. 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," Ed Gerwin, a senior fellow for trade and global opportunity at the Progressive Policy Institute, told Salon by email in July.

Gerwin 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."


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Farm Belt Farmers Protectionism Trade Trade War