The Trump administration has allocated $28 billion in aid for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war, with $12 billion set aside in 2018, followed by an additional $16 billion last year. On Friday, President Trump indicated that more aid may be on the way, contradicting Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s statement last month that no additional assistance would be made available.
The tweet: In an all-caps tweet, Trump said, “IF OUR FORMALLY TARGETED FARMERS NEED ADDITIONAL AID UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE TRADE DEALS WITH CHINA, MEXICO, CANADA AND OTHERS FULLY KICK IN, THAT AID WILL BE PROVIDED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, PAID FOR OUT OF THE MASSIVE TARIFF MONEY COMING INTO THE USA!”
The background: It’s not entirely clear what inspired the tweet, but the Department of Agriculture said Thursday that farm exports to China this year would fall short of the levels touted by the White House, The Washington Post reported. In January, administration officials said that the newly signed “phase one” of the trade deal with China would result in $40 billion to $50 billion in agricultural exports per year, but government economists now say they expect to see $14 billion in sales to China through the end of the fiscal year in September – a shorter time frame, but one that suggests that overall sales will lag significantly.
Doubts about the trade deal: Reuters reported Friday that “experts had been skeptical that China, which had pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years, would be able to meet the goal even before a coronavirus outbreak hit the country’s imports and exports.”
The aid program comes under scrutiny: The U.S. Government Accountability Office opened an investigation of the farmer bailout earlier this month, at the request of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has raised questions about the way the aid has been distributed.
And about those tariffs: Export numbers and possible corruption aside, it’s worth noting that the tariffs Trump referred to are in fact paid by U.S. companies and consumers. “Tariffs are paid by U.S. importers on goods brought into the United States,” the Post said. “Trump often says the tariffs are paid by foreign countries, but this is not the case. And critics have noted that U.S. companies often pass these higher costs onto U.S. consumers.”