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As USDA Announces Second Round of Trade Payments, Ranking Member Stabenow Urges Improvements

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement of the second tranche of 2019 Market Facilitation Program payments to assist American farmers affected by the Trump Administration’s trade policies:

“I’m disappointed the Trump Administration has not corrected the serious inequities within their trade assistance program. While farmers need help to weather the Administration’s trade uncertainty, the payments continue to favor certain farms over others. I urge the Administration to make improvements that will provide certainty for farmers that need help the most.”

Earlier this week, Ranking Member Stabenow released a comprehensive report detailing how the Administration’s trade assistance program has created deep inequities and benefited farms that have experienced less trade damage. According to the analysis, the Market Facilitation Program has treated farmers unfairly by:

  • Picking Winners and Losers between Regions and Crops:
    95% of top payment rates have gone to southern farmers, who have been harmed less than other regions
  • Helping Wealthy Farms and Foreign Companies Instead of Small Farms:
    Payments made to billionaires and foreign-owned companies, including $90 million to JBS, a Brazilian company
  • Failing to Recover Market Access:
    No long-term investment or plan for rebuilding markets

Ultimately, the Administration needs a consistent strategy to rebuild markets for farmers. In the meantime, Ranking Member Stabenow urges the Administration to address the concerns in the report and improve the program:

  • Consider higher transportation costs:
    Northern states are experiencing higher transportation costs in order to export their crops to alternative markets. USDA should adjust the payments to account for these higher costs.
  • Provide direct assistance for more specialty crop producers: 
    Purchases of surplus commodities have a purpose, but it doesn’t replace the need for direct assistance to farmers being hurt by trade damage.
  • Account for all types of trade damage:
    Instead of just focusing on the self-inflicted trade crisis, the USDA needs to account for all types of unfair trade, including the trade imbalances forest products and specialty crop producers are experiencing.
  • Target assistance to at-risk farmers:
    Small and medium sized farmers are being pushed to the brink. Instead of raising payment limits so that wealthy farmers can receive more, the USDA should target assistance to help farmers avoid foreclosure. 
  • Invest in market development:
    It will take decades to rebuild markets. USDA should dedicate funds to make long-term investments in export promotion that helps farmers sell their goods across the world.