While most insiders expected USDA to release this week the details of how the administration will divvy up the $12-billion farmer tariff aid package, it now looks as if the package won’t be unveiled until early next week. The department said it’s always targeted the release of the package “right after Labor Day,” so next week’s anticipated release, currently wrapping up rulemaking, remains ahead of schedule.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, barnstorming upstate New York, did not respond to reporter questions about package details, but said the program will be published in the Federal Register on Monday. He also allowed “it’s not going to seem like its equitable,” according to a Reuters report. “It’s not going to make everybody whole. It’s not going to make everybody happy,” Perdue said.
Soybean producers, due to their commodity’s prominence on retaliatory tariff lists by China, Mexico, Canada and others, are said to be in line for the bulk of the federal assistance, likely to be per-bushel cash payments, but USDA stressed dairy and pork producers have also been disproportionately affected by tariffs. However, the department also stressed sorghum, wheat and cotton producers will also get direct cash payments from the government.
USDA and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) have been on an accelerated schedule, and commodity groups have wasted no time making sure the number crunchers at both departments have the impact data they need to finalize the division formula. Politico reports the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA) met with USDA and OMB and provided an analysis that tariffs have depressed corn prices by as much as 44 cents per bushel, amounting to a $6-billion hit to the industry. The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S., Wheat Associates early this month provided data showing wheat prices could drop 75 cents per bushel, adding up to a $2.5-billion loss.
Perdue dismissed questions about how per-bushel aid compared among commodities, saying numbers reported earlier this week by various media outlets were “premature…incomplete.” “The way we ensure equitability (sic) on that is through a model from professional economists over tariff damages – what are the results of tariffs on each individual commodity, may they be fruits, vegetables or dairy, pork and soybeans or corn or wheat,” Perdue said. “We’re going to do our best to implement it the right way.”
The department also reminded the public this week it plans to buy surplus commodities – USDA announced it’s buying $50 million in surplus fluid milk last week – as well as spend up to $200 million on export promotion.