USDA releases new farm aid details

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs." Pic: Getty/Tony C French
“The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs." Pic: Getty/Tony C French

Related tags Dairy farmers Dairy farming Agriculture Usda Trade deal tariff

A $16bn aid package for US farmers was first announced in May. Last week Secretary Sonny Perdue gave more details about how and when the funding will be divided up.

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) is open to signups as of July 29 through December 6. Farmers can check if they are eligible for aid and download the application on the USDA website​.

The completed forms can be taken to farmers’ local Farm Service Agency county office or sent to the office by fax, mail, or email. Dairy is one of the commodities covered.

The USDA said, “American farmers have dealt with unjustified retaliatory tariffs and decades of non-tariff trade disruptions, which have curtailed US exports to China and other nations.”

“Trade damages from such retaliation and market distortions have impacted a host of US commodities. High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets.”

Matching the 'enthusiasm and patriotism' of farmers

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1, 2019, will receive a $0.20 per hundredweight payment on production history.

The MFP website says that payments will be made in up to three portions, with the second and third portions evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate, possible in November and January.

The first payment will be made in mid-to-late August and will be “comprised of the higher of either 50% of a producer’s calculated payment or $15 per acre.”

The USDA said that payments are limited to a combined $250,000 for dairy producers, and no applicant can receive more than $500,000.

Secretary Perdue said, “The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs while President Trump continues working to solidify better and stronger trade deals around the globe.

“Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year’s program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers. Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them.”

Dairy wants an improved market, not bailouts

Payments to farmers will be made by the FSA under the authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act, which will also be used to purchase up to $1.4bn of surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation.

This Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP) will distribute the surplus to food banks, schools, and other outlets serving low-income individuals. The FPDP consists of four phases, starting after October 1 with deliveries in January.

USDA estimates that it will purchase about $68m worth of dairy.

The FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative weighed in on the announcements from the USDA, and said it approves of the general improvements made to the MFP for farmers, but criticized its dairy-specific assistance.

Jeff Lyon, general manager of FarmFirst, said, “The increased payment rate of $0.20 per hundredweight is an improvement from $0.12, however, it still does not compare to the value lost by our dairy farmers due to the trade disputes. We urge Congress to pass the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement in addition to the Trump Administration finalizing a trade agreement with China.”

John Rettler, president of FarmFirst, said, “While dairy farmers appreciate the support, we would much rather rely on the market for improved prices for our valuable product. Resolving these trade issues sooner than later is what is in the best interests for US dairy farmers and we hope that the USDA realizes that these payments are not the long-term support we need.”

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