A plan to bail out farmers stricken by an escalating trade war is harvesting a mixed crop of reaction.
U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to provide emergency aid to farmers.
“Bailouts, tweets, and bragging won’t save the lost crop value for our farmers and won’t protect their reputations around the world as reliable sellers,” the Illinois Democrat said. “ The president’s scorched earth trade war has put a lot at stake for Illinois and our rural economy. Soybean farmers in Illinois tell me that since the start of the president’s trade war, they’ve seen their crop value drop by 20 percent. Declaring a trade war on the world, instead of the truly bad actors, leaves a lot of collateral damage.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday it will take several actions to assist farmers while the administration challenges unfair foreign trade practices. USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.
Among supporters of the idea are Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican whose 12th Congressional District takes in part of Metro East.
“This short-term relief program to boost our farmers and ranchers allows the Trump administration time to negotiate long-term trade deals that will benefit Southern Illinois’ agricultural economy,” said Bost in a statement. “The United States has been taken to the woodshed for years by unfair and illegal trade practices by China and others, and the administration is right to try and level the playing field. Unfortunately, rather than pursue balanced trade deals, China has responded by punishing our agricultural producers through unjustified retaliatory tariffs. I will continue working with our farmers and ranchers to create new markets for the food, fuel, and fiber they produce.”
Lynn Rohrscheib, Illinois Soybean Growers chairwoman and a soybean farmer from Fairmount, Ill., is among those who are critical.
“If trade is our problem, aid handouts are a poor solution. As producers, we would rather be able to sell our crop for a fair price and grow both agricultural export and market opportunities,” Rohrscheib said. “Government handouts only provide short-term relief. The effect on our soybean supply chains could be disastrous if the U.S. government continues to pick winners and losers amidst this tariff spat. Our supply chains are already in a dangerous position due to harsh rhetoric, and a government handout only adds to the uncertainty. We continue to advocate for an end to this trade war and echo industry concerns for trade, not aid. We recognize the administration’s actions as being heard but feel that any solution should involve rescinding the tariffs.”
Illinois Soybean Growers is a membership organization serving more than 43,000 Illinois soybean growers.