Farmers have mixed reactions to Trump’s farm aid

July 26, 2018 GMT

Pennsylvania farmers greeted the Trump Administration’s announcement Tuesday of $12 billion in emergency aid to agriculture with mixed emotions.

Administration officials said the aid will ease the pain farmers have felt as America’s trading partners slapped tariffs on agricultural exports in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“While we’re grateful the administration is doing something, we’re hopeful these tariff issues will be resolved soon because farmers would rather trade than take aid,” said Joel Rotz, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman.

The Washington Post reported that the aid will begin to flow in September. That’s two months ahead of crucial mid-term elections that Republicans fear could shift control of the House or Senate.

Although the aid package acknowledges the problems tariffs have created for American farmers, President Trump appeared unlikely to end the ever-escalating trade war. Just hours before the announcement of the aid package, Trump tweeted “Tariffs are the greatest!” and vowed that those who have taken advantage of the United States will have to negotiate a new deal.

In Pennsylvania, where 59,000 farms have a $137.5 billion economic impact, the tariffs have taken a toll.

Rick Ebert, 58, of Derry Township is president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and a third-generation dairy farmer. He’s felt the impact of the trade wars directly as milk prices plummeted again this year following a long downward slide.

Milk and dairy prices have dropped 10 percent in the last month, Rotz said.

“We know that the impact has been substantial enough that it has made the difference between whether there is a profit margin in some cases,” Rotz said.

Ebert is waiting to see the details of the aid package.

“The biggest concern now is that guys are financially stressed as it is. ... All of agri­culture is being impacted. I don’t think there is enough money in the government to make anybody whole,” Ebert said.

Nationally, corn, soybean and pork producers have felt the harshest impact of the tariffs. But Rotz said in Pennsylvania, where corn and soybeans are used for animal feed, the impact has been felt most keenly among fruit and vegetable producers and pork and dairy farmers.

And it’s not just China. Canada and Mexico, the nation’s major NAFTA partners, have retaliated with tariffs on agricultural exports.

“That’s pretty big when you consider that 85 percent of our fruits and vegetables go to the NAFTA countries,” Rotz said.

Preliminary details of the agricultural aid program that emerged Tuesday indicate the administration will tap the Commodity Credit Corporation, an entity created during the Great Depression to support farmers, to borrow directly from the Treasury for aid to agriculture.