According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at least 11,000 farmers in Texas believe that they’ve suffered from the tariffs and trade disputes that President Donald Trump has instituted in his trade war with China.
Thursday was the deadline for agricultural producers to sign up for the USDA’s Market Facilitation Program, which was started to help producers “suffering from damages due to unjustified trade retaliation.”
Brenda Carlson, a USDA spokeswoman, said that the USDA-Farm Production and Conservation Business Center in Texas had processed approximately 11,000 applications. Farmers and ranchers in Texas received a total of $72 million in assistance. Applications received during the 35-day government shutdown may still be in the processing stage.
Nationally, 864,000 farmers have applied for assistance. They’ve been given an estimated $8 billion in payments.
“Farmers are very resilient, and these payments are helping agricultural producers meet some of the costs of disrupted markets in 2018,” USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey said. “We view it as a short-term solution to help America’s farmers, and we encourage impacted producers to apply.”
Texas Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall said that there are mixed feelings about the Trump administration, tariffs, and China amongst farmers and ranchers.
“China is a very bad actor, involved in currency manipulation, cheating on subsidies and abusing World Trade Organization rules,” Hall said. “There is a lot of support for taking aggressive action against that country. But a trade war could not have come at a worst possible time. It is being felt most acutely in the Midwest, but we’re having problems here, too. These market assistance payments are helpful, but no one considers them a long-term solution.”
Hall said that generally, farmers like Trump, in part because he attempted to abolish the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule, which "sought to define rivers, streams, lakes and marshes that fall under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
“Trump rolled back regulations, particularly that rule, and farmers are grateful,” Hall said. “A lot of the goodwill farmers have for him is tied to that. Is their patience wearing thin? I’m not prepared to say that yet. But there is a limit to how far he can go with tariffs. They may be a helpful tool to settle things when you have someone such as China that ignores every rule. But we’re also talking about tariffs on steel and aluminum from other suppliers. Lots of things on the farm are costing more. They’ve displayed a lot of patience with Trump, but there is no question, some of his policies create hurt at home.”
The Market Facilitation Program began to ease farmers’ pain.
Luis Ribera, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University said that although the temporary truce between China and Trump may reduce tension, “this is still not a good situation, not even close.”
“Looking at this from both sides, China’s economy is not doing well, and our commodity prices are low,” Ribera said. “China is a country that needs quality food, and we have it. Citizens there spend 25 percent of their income on food. Truce or not, China needs our agricultural products. They’re buying soybeans from Brazil, and they are a lot more expensive. I would hope that common sense would play out, but when politics get involved, you never know.”
U.S. farmers are facing hard times as commodity prices fall and the price of machinery and fertilizer rise.
“China is involved in things I would not call playing fair,” Ribera said. “Something needed to be done, but I would hope this would be something we could sit down and renegotiate terms instead of applying tariffs.”
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