Hundreds of thousands of American farmers could soon be receiving checks from the federal government to help ease the financial strain of President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade wars, but many of them are worried the checks won’t be enough.
The administration has set aside billions of dollars to bail out America’s agricultural sector, which has been particularly harmed as a result of Trump’s back-and-forth tariffs with China.
According to NBC News, the situation could see some farmers alter how they vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
> "It's pretty obvious that the rural agriculture communities helped elect this administration, but the way things are going, I believe farmers are going to have to vote with their checkbook when it comes time," said Kevin Skunes, a corn and soybean grower from Arthur, North Dakota, and president of the National Corn Growers Association.
> Corn farmers get the smallest slice of the aid pie. Corn groups estimate a loss of 44 cents per bushel, but they're poised to receive just a single penny per bushel.
> "If these issues haven't been resolved, there could be a change in the way farmers vote," Skunes said. "A person has to consider all things."
Soybean farmers will receive the bulk of the $12 billion aid package, of which $6 billion is set to go out in this first round of payments.
> The three-pronged plan includes $4.7 million in payments to corn, cotton, soybean, dairy, pork and sorghum farmers. The rest is for developing new foreign markets for American-grown commodities and purchasing more than two dozen select products, including certain fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat and dairy.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in August that soybean farmers will get the largest checks, at a rate of $1.65 per bushel.
But those producing crops other than soybeans are unsure the money is being apportioned fairly.
> Asked about the confusion, Rob Johansson, the Agriculture Department's chief economist, responded that the USDA took into account a number of factors "including the share of production that is exported and the value of trade directly affected by the retaliatory tariffs."
> "The level of damage is not the same for each commodity," he said in a written response to questions submitted by The Associated Press.
After the USDA published the details of how the calculations were made, corn and wheat farmers were stunned, NBC News reported.
> A lobbying group that represents wheat growers is challenging the way the administration determined payments for wheat farmers, who are set to receive 14 cents a bushel. Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said the USDA assumed U.S. wheat would be sold to China this year when it made its calculations. But the assumption was flawed, he said.
> China typically makes its requests for American wheat between March and June. U.S. wheat farmers have sold, on average, 20 million bushels of wheat to China over the past three years. But none came this year, Goule said, as Trump escalated his threatening rhetoric on trade with Beijing. He hopes the per-bushel rate for wheat goes up if there's a second round of payments.
Goule said he is certain no wheat will be sold to China this year, as the window “has come and gone.”
Though farmers in general seem grateful for the government’s assistance, most would like to see the trade war end and have markets available to sell their crops.
> "Nobody wants to have an aid package. I mean, if you're a farmer you're in the business of producing a crop. We just want a fair price for it," said Joel Schreurs, a soybean and corn producer near Tyler in southwestern Minnesota who sits on the board of both the American Soybean Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.