EVANSVILLE, Ind., July 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its plan for how it will distribute $16 billion in aid to farmers who are losing money to the enduring trade war with China.
The program, which the agency calls its Market Facilitation Program, will pay farmers who grow one of 28 designated commodity crops between $15 and $150 per acre planted this spring.
The amount farmers receive will depend on the county in which they reside. The USDA established a set rate for each county across the country that it says reflects how much money farmers there lost to trade last year.
"Our farmers work hard," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. "We aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them."
Farmers welcomed the news.
"A lot of farmers have their operating loans maxed out and they're really running out of money to live on," said Tim Bardole, an Iowa farmer and the president-elect of the Iowa Soybean Association. "So, this payment will make a big difference."
This is the second consecutive year that the USDA has provided farmers with tariff relief money. The agency distributed $12 billion last year after China imposed a flurry of high retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural products, dramatically reducing the prices for many of those crops.
The 2018 program was structured a little differently. It paid farmers based on the type of crop they grew, not the location in which they grew it. The reasoning was China's tariffs impacted some crops more than others.
Soybean growers, for example, were one of the hardest hit. China had been buying roughly one third of all the beans grown in the U.S. before the tariffs all but stopped soybean trade between the two countries, crashing prices and leaving millions of bushels of beans stored in farm grain bins with nowhere to go.
"We've lost money the last two years," Bardole said, speaking of his family's Iowa farm.
Though soybeans remain one of the hardest hit commodities, there was concern that basing payments on crops this year would encourage farmers to plant even more soybeans, which would only increase the unsellable backlog.
"Short-term, stair-stepped subsidies ... stimulate production but not sales and therefore do little to undo the long-term log jam caused by not selling soybeans to destinations like China," Lindsay Greiner, the president of the Iowa Soybean Association, and a farmer in Keota, Iowa, said in a statement after the USDA first announced the 2019 aid earlier this spring.
Some of the other commodities that will receive aid money aside from soybeans are corn, lentils, some kinds of rice, peanuts and wheat.
Farm groups were quick to praise the aid package, though they were quick to add that the aid is a poor substitute for normal trade.
"These are difficult times for agriculture, and the longer these trade wars continue, the deeper the impact on farm country," Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a statement.
"While we are grateful for the continuing support for American agriculture from President Trump and Secretary Perdue, America's farmers ultimately want trade more than aid," Duvall said. "It is critically important to restore agricultural markets and mutually beneficial relationships with our trading partners around the world."