Relief promised for farmers on the frontlines of trade war

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- As fallout from global trade disputes deepen, the Trump administration unveils the outline of a long-awaited plan to help farmers.

Tuesday afternoon, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced farmers hit hardest by Chinese and European tariffs can expect $12-billion in relief. He emphasized that future renegotiated trade deals still represent best possible outcome for farmers.

"Farmers still want trade, not aid," he said, repeating a line he's used consistently since President Donald Trump first began promising relief several months ago.

In unveiling the plan today, Perdue did concede many of its crucial details - like when payments would begin and what form they may take - remain in development.

Perdue emphasized the plan is a short-term measure designed to fully-cover the negative impacts on farmers in certain sectors. He said relief will take three forms.

The first is called a 'Market Fallout Program.' That would compensate farmers for revenue lost to foreign tariffs on soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs .

The second would have the federal government purchase and distribute surpluses of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork, and some dairy. Those products would then be resold to food processors and food banks.

Finally, Perdue said the US Department of Agriculture will work with the private sector to develop new markets for affected commodities.

High-ranking USDA staff said they have briefed lawmakers on the programs, though the assistance package will not require congressional approval. While they did not have a breakdown of how the cash will be divided by crop, they said those selling soybeans would likely be the biggest beneficiary of the programs.

The World Trade Organization does restrict how much countries can offset the costs of tariffs. The USDA's experts said the package outlined today would not exceed the nearly $20-billion cap.

For more on this story, including the politics of the plan, watch an edited version of our interview with Sec. Perdue by clicking the video above.



 
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